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.



Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
scienceScientists have developed a material so dark you can't see it...
News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
Gavin Maxwell in Sandaig with one of his pet otters
peopleWas the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?
News
Rowsell says: 'Wearing wigs is a way of looking normal. I pick a style and colour and stick to it because I don't want to keep wearing different styles'
peopleThe World Champion cyclist Joanna Rowsell on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?