English Premiership

Chelsea stars under pressure

2010-03-20 07:08
Under pressure

Blackburn - Chelsea's Champions League exit at the hands of Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan on Tuesday inevitably led to questions being asked about the future of Carlo Ancelotti and his well-paid players.

Owner Roman Abramovich helped fuel such speculation by making a rare visit to the club's Surrey training ground to address the Italian and an expensively-assembled squad many critics - former Chelsea manager Ruud Gullit included - insist requires a comprehensive overhaul in the summer.

But Ancelotti was adamant that the importance of Sunday's trip to Blackburn Rovers was the only item on the agenda as the Blues attempt to get the better of Manchester United and Arsenal in a three-way fight for the Premier League title.

"Roman spoke with me and with the players," Ancelotti said. "He came to support us because he knows football and he knows that we are involved in important competitions again. So I think his presence was very good.

"We didn't speak about the future, about the changes for next season, because it's not the right time to speak about this. I said we have important games in the next week and we have to stay focused: all the players and all the club."

Did that mean, therefore, that the Russian was prepared to write off the Inter reverse? Ancelotti was certainly hoping so.

"He was disappointed and he is the owner of a club that is out of the Champions League," he said. "Everyone was disappointed about the last game."

With United's clash with Liverpool likely to be as competitive as usual, Chelsea's coach believes a good result at Ewood Park could be very significant.

"We have a very important trophy again to pursue," said Ancelotti, who may be able to welcome back goalkeeper Petr Cech following three weeks out with a calf injury.

"We are in the semi-finals of the FA Cup and, maybe, two points behind Manchester United but with a game in hand.

"So our destiny is in our own hands. If we win every game, we can do the double. That's very difficult, but we can try to do this. That's very important, to think about this. Only five teams, I think, have won a double in 140 years in England. It's not easy, but we can think about this and do our best. That's our aim."

Blackburn defender Michel Salgado was also thinking about the future, with the 34-year-old former Real Madrid man confident Sam Allardyce's squad could improve enough to qualify for Europe in two seasons' time.

"We are heading the right way," he said. "If we work hard, why not Europe after next season? We have tough games ahead and the most important thing is to get safe first. Two more wins probably, then we will have the confidence to get more and more.

"That can help the future. Maybe not this season for Europe because it is far away but for the next season if we play with the same squad and maybe improve."

Rovers no longer possess the financial muscle they enjoyed in the 1990s when Jack Walker bank-rolled their Premier League title success in 1995 and Salgado admitted some of his team-mates could soon be tempted to bigger clubs.

"You have six teams who are two steps ahead of us with regards money," he said.

"We have many very good young players who are growing up and need the advice of the old players. We have three or four ready to play in big teams."

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