Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti has warned Manchester United that his side are in the mood to deliver a substantial blow to the champions’ bid to retain the Premier League title.
The Blues can move five points clear of United with victory at Stamford Bridge on Sunday and Ancelotti believes the leaders’ impressive recent form and formidable home record provides the perfect foundation to claim a crucial win.
Ancelotti’s team have won all eight of their home matches under the Italian and haven’t conceded a goal in front of their own fans since the opening day of the season when Stephen Hunt struck for Hull.
They are also unbeaten in their last five matches in all competitions and have scored 19 goals in the process.
“We are happy to play this game at this moment. I think we are doing very well, we are in good condition and we have a very good mental attitude at this moment,” Ancelotti said.
“It’s a very important game. We will play against the second team in the Premiership, but I think that it’s just a game that carries three points like the other games.
“It’s important because we play against a fantastic team, but we know very well that it will be a very difficult match but also a very interesting match. Psychologically, it will not mean more.”
Ancelotti can also take heart from United’s slightly unconvincing form so far this season. Their defence has been a particular cause of concern for United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who will be without England centre-back Rio Ferdinand on Sunday due to a back injury.
The former AC Milan coach knows that even a team as strong as United has weaknesses that can be exploited.
“I think Manchester United have a very good team. Like us, they are doing very well because they have qualified in the Champions League and have done very well in the Premiership. But every team is vulnerable. There is not a team that is invincible,” he said.
With 12 goals in his last 13 games, Didier Drogba will be key to Chelsea’s hopes of extending United’s run without a win at the Bridge to seven years.
Ancelotti is well aware that the Ivory Coast striker is capable of terrorising any defence, but he is keen to focus on the need for the rest of the team to support their talismanic targetman.
“He’s doing very well for the team, but not only Didier is doing well,” Ancelotti said. “At this moment, all the squad are in good condition and doing very well.
“To win against Manchester United, we cannot win only thanks to Didier’s work. We can only win if we play like a team.”
Ancelotti, who has already overseen a penalty shoot-out win against United in the Community Shield this season, has little reason to fear a clash with the Scot after enjoying a notable success against United during his time in Italy.
In the 2007 Champions League semi-final second leg, Milan completely outclassed United 3-0 at the San Siro to book their place in a final against Liverpool that the Italians won to secure Ancelotti’s second European Cup.
“Sometimes against Ferguson I’ve won. Sometimes he’s won. But it’s not a match between Ancelotti and Ferguson. It’s Chelsea against Manchester United,” Ancelotti added.
“I have a very good relationship with Ferguson. I think that he’s one of the best coaches in the world. He won a lot of trophies. I have respect for him.”
A victory on Sunday would leave Chelsea as firm favourites to win the title for the first time since 2006 as well as keeping the Blues well ahead of Arsenal, whom Ancelotti rates as potential challengers.
“I think Arsenal have good possibilities to arrive in first place,” Ancelotti added. “We can’t think about Liverpool at this moment because they are behind, but Arsenal have a very good team and a very good chance to win.”
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