With age comes wisdom, says Chelsea's Ancelotti

Carlo Ancelotti has hit back at suggestions his Chelsea players are showing their age and are too old to challenge for trophies this season.

Carlo Ancelotti, left, has fended off claims John Terry and Frank Lampard are showing their age.
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Italian manager defends his players against criticism

Carlo Ancelotti has hit back at suggestions his Chelsea players are showing their age and are to old to challenge for trophies this season.

Opinion is divided over the reasons behind the club's worst run in the Premier League for almost 15 years, from which they have only just emerged.

Disillusionment among the squad, the shock sacking of Ray Wilkins, the assistant manager, the promotion in his place of the under-qualified Michael Emenalo, the loss of key players to injury and Ancelotti's training methods have all been put forward as the source of the problem.

But there are also those who have questioned whether the players at Stamford Bridge are still capable of competing for the big prizes. But Ancelotti refuted suggestions his first-choice XI is too old.

He said: "Do you know what is the oldest team in the world? Inter Milan - 29.6 years average. Another question: who was the winner of the Champions League last year? We are not the oldest because the oldest is Inter."

Nevertheless, with key men such as John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba on the wrong side of 30, there will come a time in the not-too-distant future when Chelsea will need to consider life without them.

Ancelotti believes he has ready-made replacements in the shape of Branislav Ivanovic, Ramires, Josh McEachran and Daniel Sturridge. "They are our young players, they are improving and growing in this club," he said

Injuries to Terry, Drogba and Lampard coincided with Chelsea's miserable run of one league win in nine and they could be without the latter tonight when they travel to Bolton Wanderers as he battles to overcome a calf injury.

Ancelotti is acutely aware of the importance of Lampard.

"We were without him for three months and we knew it was very important to have him," he said of the England midfielder.

Chelsea's possible new recruit - David Luiz, the Brazil defender - could be in place before the week is out. Luis Filipe Vieira, the Benfica president, held discussions with Chelsea on Saturday.

Though a deal is yet to be completed the two clubs moved closer in their valuation of Luiz.

Sources close to Vieira suggested he was ready to accept a fee of €25 million (Dh122.5m) for the 23-year-old after Chelsea improved their offer to around €22m.

Vieira has returned to Lisbon, but was due to speak with Chelsea again today.

Owen Coyle, the Bolton manager, is still angry at the way his side lost to Chelsea last month when Florent Malouda scored a disputed winner.

"It should have been ruled out for offside and we could have had a penalty, " he said. "We have had two close-run games with them and lost both 1-0. We came out on the wrong side of some major decisions in those games. We should have had two stonewall penalties last year."

* Agencies

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