Ancelotti orders more of the same from last season

Manager recalls last season's fixture against United though his counterpart Ferguson is still in driving seat ahead of crucial clash at Old Trafford.

Carlo Ancelotti, right, the Chelsea manager, takes on Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United today. John Sibley / Action Images
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Carlo Ancelotti, the Chelsea manager, hopes the memory of last season's famous victory at Old Trafford will inspire his players to inflict another defeat over Manchester United today which would take them top of the Premier League.

The Italian, who must have thought his team's chances were gone when they sat 15 points behind Sir Alex Ferguson's side just two months ago, wants to see the same fearless display today that was evident when the Londoners won this corresponding fixture just over a year ago.

Chelsea were head and shoulders above an unusually subdued United and, while five games remained after that match, not the two which will come after this game, the deserved 2-1 win put them two points clear at the top - a position they never relinquished as they won the league on the final day.

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"I want to remind my players of that game last season, as I think Ferguson will remind his players about the game they played against us in the Champions League [a 2-1 win last month]," said Ancelotti.

"We needed to win there last year and we won. I hope this year will be the same. It's always the same message to prepare for this game. Be calm, relax, and believe in yourselves. There is not a lot else to do. The players are motivated themselves. The problem is the fear. Being afraid - to lose energy being too afraid."

United have a three-point advantage over Chelsea but the two teams are on the same goal-difference, means victory today for the home side would all but see them crowned champions. That would put them six points clear with six to play for and "just" a trip to Blackburn Rovers to come followed by a match with struggling Blackpool at Old Trafford. A point from either game would be good enough to win them the title.

Chelsea know the significance of a victory for them as a draw would still leave United with that three-point advantage.

A triumph for the reigning champions, however, would take them top on goal-difference. Their final fixtures are, on paper, more difficult. Newcastle United go to Stamford Bridge next weekend, then it is away at Everton, whose manager David Moyes will demand nothing less than 100 per cent, even if his team's European hopes have gone.

If Chelsea can do this, it would be one of the most remarkable late surges in football history. In just nine weeks they have gone from also-rans to a win away from going top with two games remaining.

Ancelotti said: "United hoped they wouldn't have to play this kind of game against us. If they'd had more of an advantage, it could have been an easy game against us - not easy, but a different game. They have to fight again for the title."

For all this bullish talk from Chelsea, it is important to remember United are in charge, have dropped just two points at home in the league all season and they did beat Chelsea at Old Trafford in the recent Champions League quarter-final.

Ferguson does not care for precedents, saying: "It doesn't matter what happened last Sunday, four Sundays ago, four months ago, four years ago. We are where we are. We have three games left. We are three points ahead with same goal difference. We are playing at home. Nothing can change it.

"People still criticise us for not being great this season but we have scored more goals than anyone else, so we must be doing something right."

Fernando Torres was brought in to win trophies for Chelsea, yet the £50 million (Dh300m) man may start on the bench, given that he has done little right since his January move from Liverpool.

"The first step is to win against Manchester United and after we know they have the power to score a lot of goals in the two games they have to play, the same as Chelsea," the striker told Chelsea's television channel. "We are in the position we wanted to be right now."

The defender Chris Smalling has not been at United for long, but knows enough about the club to make him feel that he will end his first season with a league medal.

"Fair play to Chelsea. They were a long way behind not that long ago and have caught up," he said. "But we have been top for so long, I can't see us letting it slip away now."

* With agencies