Ancelotti wants ruthless Chelsea
Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti has warned his players that they will have to stop taking their foot off the accelerator during games if they are to successfully retain their Premier League crown.
Chelsea have taken advantage of a number of slip-ups by their rivals to establish a five-point gap at the top of the table with almost a quarter of the season gone. Yet the Blues manager, who clinched the title last season in his first year in charge, has voiced his concerns recently that his team are not performing to their potential.
The Londoners had to rely on a late goal from Salomon Kalou to seal a 2-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers last week and have been guilty of easing off on their opponents at times this season - most notably against Stoke City and Blackpool.
Ancelotti thinks his team will have to be more ruthless in closing out matches if they are to claim victory in the key battles against Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Arsenal that lie ahead. "We have started the season well but I think we can play better because we played very well in some parts of some games but not continuously," the Italian said.
"We have to play 90 minutes how we want to play. We have to improve our play and our intensity. We can't just play for 45 minutes like we did against Wolves. We want to play well for the whole of the match and we haven't been able to do that so far this season."
Ancelotti takes his team to Blackburn Rovers tomorrow knowing that his team have under-performed in their last two league matches away from home. Defeat at title rivals Manchester City was followed by a goalless draw at Aston Villa, where they could have lost all three points had Nigel Reo-Coker not squandered a golden chance in the final minutes.
Although Ancelotti's team swept aside Wigan Athletic and West Ham United in their other two away league games, the former AC Milan coach admits his side must do better on the road if they are to hold on to their title. "In the last two games away we didn't score against Man City and against Aston Villa," said the 51-year-old.
"We had a good away game in the Champions League at Spartak Moscow but it is strange for us not to score away in two consecutive games in the Premier League. We had a fantastic performance when we won at Wigan 6-0 but we have to be better away."
Alex will return to the heart of the Chelsea defence tomorrow after recovering from a thigh injury but Ramires (ankle), Frank Lampard (hernia) and Yossi Benayoun (Achilles) remain sidelined. Chelsea will be clear favourites to take all three points and maintain their grip on the title against a Blackburn side whose three-match winless run has seen them plummet to 17th in the table.
However, Ancelotti expects the game to be one of the toughest of the season and has warned his side that defeat could seriously affect their chances of winning back-to-back titles for the second time in the club's 105-year history.
"It's very important to maintain that gap on the other teams," said Ancelotti, whose side drew 1-1 at Ewood Park last year. "Man City, Man Utd and Arsenal are interested in our results and they would like us to lose some points. For this reason it will be an important game tomorrow. If we are able to win this game I think that we can improve our confidence and we can give disappointment to the other teams."
Sam Allardyce has come under fire in recent weeks for the physical style that he employs but Ancelotti fully respects tomorrow's opposing manager. "Sam Allardyce is doing a good job at Blackburn," Ancelotti continued. "He is putting on the pitch a very strong team that are using a particular physical style of play and for this reason to play against them is not easy. Tactically they are one of the best teams in England, particularly defensively."