Ancelotti trusts in 'better' Torres to bring an end to 'bad moments'

Not for the want of trying, Carlo Ancelotti sometimes grasps for the right English phrase to express his feelings and finds himself empty-handed. His description of his club's three-month slump as a "bad moment" is one such example. But when the Chelsea manager attempted to convey his sense of determination yesterday he managed an appropriately dramatic rallying for a particularly bleak time.

"Wait," implored Ancelotti. "The season is not finished yet. It could be the best season in memory. Maybe it could be the worst. I don't know. But wait, wait. Chelsea has not died. It's still alive."

The vital signs have been badly missing at times over the 19 games since Ancelotti's assistant, Ray Wilkins, was sacked, a watershed moment in the season whether you believe it was crucial to the subsequent slump in results or not. Chelsea have won just six games since Wilkins departed, a ludicrous record for a club that have established themselves over the last eight years as a powerhouse of European football.

Yesterday, with his captain alongside him, Ancelotti delivered arguably his most convincing performance yet to suggest that all is not lost. It helped that John Terry was on-message and in spiky mood, although not quite as spiky as when he took the England manager, Fabio Capello, to task in Rustenburg last summer.

Sat next to Terry, who had far more questions directed his way at the Parken Stadium last night, Ancelotti seemed to catch a little of his captain's enthusiasm to remind people of Chelsea's achievements over the last 12 months. Terry warned those who would dare to write his team-mates off not to speak too soon, but it was Ancelotti who captured those thoughts in a single quotation.

Are Chelsea still alive? Ancelotti appealed to the Italians in the room to cast their minds back to 2007 when his Milan team fell away badly in the league and finished fourth, an eye-watering 36 points behind the champions Internazionale. But the Champions League title that Ancelotti secured in the final against Liverpool in Athens in May was not a bad consolation prize.

Yet Ancelotti's admission that as well as being Chelsea's best season it could also turn out to be their worst was a nod to the reality of the situation and his own phlegmatic approach to football's outrageous fortunes. This is a dangerous game tonight against a bright young side with nothing to lose and an ambitious young coach in Stale Solbakken, who was confident enough to argue with Pep Guardiola on the touchline at the Nou Camp.

Ancelotti has to decide how he configures his team in the knowledge that, after 77 days' rest from competitive football, FC Copenhagen will be fresher than Chelsea. He will start with Fernando Torres tonight – his first Champions League game as a Chelsea player – who, Ancelotti said, was looking "better". "He has been working and we used the fact that he was not able to play against Everton to improve his condition," Ancelotti said.

But who else? The likelihood is that it will be Florent Malouda and Nicolas Anelka behind Torres as a pair with a midfield trio behind them of Ramires, Frank Lampard and Michael Essien. That would mean leaving out Didier Drogba, who has come to Chelsea's rescue so many times over the years. These are the kind of big decisions that can keep a manager in a job or hasten him to the door.

"The players have always put in fantastic effort," Ancelotti said. "I've never complained about this. This is football. It's sometimes very difficult staying at the top all the time. You sometimes manage when it's not a good moment. The season is not finished. A lot of times, I've been able to manage [in] this moment. In 2007, it was the same situation, I should remind you."

When Terry tried to frame the argument that it could be a "blessing in disguise" that Chelsea find themselves out of the two domestic cup competitions and adrift in the title race, you got the sense of straw being clutched at. However, if this situation does not focus minds then nothing will.

Chelsea simply cannot afford not to qualify for the Champions League with a financial model that they are trying to knock into shape for the introduction of Uefa's financial fair play model in two years' time. With more than £70m spent last month and the promise of more in the summer, it would have been a squeeze even in the most promising circumstances. Without the Champions League revenue they will be even more reliant on owner Roman Abramovich's largesse.

"By the looks of things, he's not going to buy [just] these two players [Torres and David Luiz], sit back and hope for the best," Terry said of the owner. "It's always important to strengthen our squad. If we can add, we can be a very good force in the league and in Europe."

Winning the Champions League is the hardest way of ensuring a place in the competition the following season but it was how Liverpool qualified in 2005 when they finished fifth behind Everton. In the short term, what Chelsea and Ancelotti are looking for is something more symbolic. If they beat FC Copenhagen tonight, or at least leave themselves set fair to win the tie, then they can begin to turn the corner.

Vulnerable and playing away from home, Ancelotti needs that kind of performance tonight from his team. Then they need to beat Manchester United on Tuesday, Blackpool and Manchester City while seeing off FC Copenhagen at home in the meantime. Only then will we be able to tell that this has the potential to be the best of seasons rather than the worst – which is the way it is currently heading for Chelsea's manager.

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
Life and Style
Researchers have said it could take only two questions to identify a problem with alcohol
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Duncan Campbell's hour-long film 'It for Others'
Turner Prize 2014
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hadley in a scene from ‘Soul Boys Of The Western World’
musicSpandau Ballet are back together - on stage and screen
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'
tvCilla review: A poignant ending to mini-series
Life and Style
Bearing up: Sebastian Flyte with his teddy Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited
lifePhilippa Perry explains why a third of students take a bear to uni
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Alan Sugar appearing in a shot from Apprentice which was used in a Cassette Boy mashup
artsA judge will rule if pieces are funny enough to be classed as parodies
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style