Ancelotti hails Chelsea rearguard

Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti hailed his rock-solid defence as he looks to finish the Champions League group stage unbeaten.

After reaching at least the semi final stage for the last three seasons, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich signalled his intent to bring the ultimate prize in European club football by installing Ancelotti as manager at Stamford Bridge this summer.

Ancelotti had spent eight years at AC Milan in which he lifted the Champions League trophy twice and he has also won the competition twice as a player.

The Italian recently admitted that he prioritised European success over regaining the Premier League title, although the Blues also currently sit five points clear of Manchester United.

Chelsea travel to Cypriot champions APOEL Nicosia on Tuesday with top spot in Group D already guaranteed.

Chelsea‘s success in the group stages has partly been due to their solid defence, which has conceded just two goals in their five games – a feat that only Barcelona and Bordeaux have matched.

Ancelotti built his Milan team around a solid defence that included the likes of Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Costacurta and Alessandro Nesta, and he believes Chelsea‘s defence are starting to prove they are as strong a unit as he has ever worked with.

“John Terry continues to play with great consistency, every game, with the same determination and concentration,” Ancelotti said.

“This is important to maintain a clean sheet, every game. It’s more difficult if you’ve only got one player performing like this, but we have (Ricardo) Carvalho and Ashley Cole having fantastic seasons.”

Terry was subject of three bids from Chelsea‘s big-spending rivals Manchester City this summer.

After much deliberation, Terry chose to stay at Stamford Bridge and Ancelotti believes his influence has been profound in both domestic and European competition.

“I’m happy he stayed because players like John Terry, for a coach, are a big advantage,” the 50 year old said.

“Other players have a very good example to follow and, for a coach, that’s important. Above all in the behaviour of the team. They know how to perform on the training ground if they watch how John Terry works there.”

Ancelotti has often compared Terry to Maldini, who retired at the age of 40 after winning seven Serie A winners’ medals.

He is confident that Terry can match Maldini despite the rigour of playing for both club and country on a regular basis.

“We don’t have a physical problem with him,” Ancelotti said.

“For me, he can have a very long career.”

Although the match is a dead rubber for the Blues, APOEL can qualify for the Europa League with a draw if FC Porto beat third-placed Atletico Madrid.

Former Chelsea midfielder Nuno Morais scored the winner as the Cypriot side beat AEL Limassol last weekend to extend their unbeaten run in the Cypriot First Division to eight matches.

Chelsea, meanwhile, were knocked out of the Carling Cup in midweek by Blackburn on penalties.

The Blues have crashed out of the Champions League twice on penalties in the last three seasons but Ancelotti believes practising spot kicks on the training ground does not always guarantee success.

“Penalties are a lottery. It’s difficult to train a player on penalties,” he said.

“The atmosphere changes from the training ground. The atmosphere is the most important thing in a shoot-out – if you are afraid, if you are quiet – so it’s difficult to train for that.

“I won one game against Manchester United (in the Community Shield) this season in a shoot-out, but we lost this game in midweek. But it’s impossible to work on this.”