Ancelotti: Blues must believe
Carlo Ancelotti wants Chelsea to believe they can pull off an unlikely Premier League title comeback – even if he is not convinced they will.
The Blues have given themselves a glimmer of hope of retaining their crown after almost halving Manchester United’s lead over them to six points.
The champions realistically need to win all five of their remaining games to stand a chance of overhauling United, who must take 10 points over the same period to be certain of a record-breaking 19th title.
Unsurprisingly, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side are heavy favourites to get over the line, something Ancelotti has openly acknowledged.
But the Italian wants his players to keep the faith until it is mathematically impossible for them to catch the leaders.
"They have to believe that we can win every game," said Ancelotti, whose side face West Ham on Saturday and also host Tottenham before facing United.
"We have to believe that we can also win at Old Trafford, as we did last year. But this doesn’t mean that we can win the title.
"The title is in the hands of Manchester United, we have to be honest.
"To be honest, I can say that I’d like to be in the place of Man United. If they don’t lose total control, they can win."
Having lost last weekend’s FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City before drawing 0-0 at Newcastle, United look vulnerable again ahead of their game against in-form Everton tomorrow lunchtime.
But regardless of whether they win, lose or draw, Chelsea simply must beat West Ham in the evening kick-off and Spurs a week later to stay in the hunt.
Even if United lose at Arsenal next weekend and against the champions the following Sunday, they will still be favourites, with Chelsea facing the tougher last two fixtures.
"At the end, we have a very tough game against Everton," Ancelotti said. "Usually, against Everton, it never was easy."
As well as United’s blip, Chelsea’s hope of a sensational comeback have been fuelled by their own good league form.
They have taken 19 points from 21 after recovering from their worst run in the league for almost 15 years, also getting over the crushing blow of crashing out to United in the Champions League quarter-finals.
"I spoke very clearly after the defeat against Man United because I think after that defeat it was a very good opportunity to show our personality, our character," Ancelotti said.
"It was easy to say, ‘Ah, the season is over’. Instead, the players had a very good reaction.
"I think that everyone was looking at what the reaction of the Chelsea players was."
Ancelotti has also reacted with remarkable composure to a loss which left him appearing all but resigned to losing his job in the summer.
Having arguably blundered by picking Fernando Torres for the second leg at Old Trafford, the Italian’s team selection and tactics have been virtually flawless since.
He looks almost free of the burden of worrying about his future, which could ultimately help spare him the chop if it helps secure the title.
"My emotion after the defeat against Man United was not so good," said Ancelotti, who was at pains not to transmit any negativity to his players.
"I don’t know if they are looking at my reaction. My behaviour is always the same if we win or if we lose.
"I want to show my emotion and my emotion was to say to the players it was a good moment to show character, personality, attitude, spirit, as a team."
If any player has epitomised that, it is Didier Drogba, but the striker’s red-hot form may not prevent Ancelotti gambling on resting him tomorrow and recalling £50million flop Fernando Torres.
That is despite seeing the same decision backfire spectacularly at Old Trafford.
Ancelotti, who also did not rule out ditching the 4-3-3 formation that has helped spark Chelsea’s resurgence, said: "It wouldn’t be easy to leave Drogba out, but there’s a chance we could.
"It might be a good solution to give him the last 30 minutes of the game because he’s fresh and fit."