Kalou confident Chelsea slump is unrelated to Wilkins' sacking

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The Independent Online

Chelsea winger Salomon Kalou insists the players have not been affected by the shock departure of assistant Ray Wilkins and the rumours surrounding coach Carlo Ancelotti's future.

Kalou came off the bench to inspire Chelsea to a 2-1 victory over MSK Zilina at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday. But they had to come from behind to keep their 100 per cent record in the Champions League this season after Babatounde Bello had stunned the them with a 19th-minute opener.

Second-half goals from Daniel Sturridge and Florent Malouda ensured Chelsea finished in top spot and eased the pressure on Ancelotti. The Italian coach had denied rumours that he was on the brink of quitting Chelsea after their 1-0 defeat at Birmingham in the Premier League.

He also maintained he was happy to work alongside new assistant first-team coach Michael Emenalo. The Nigerian has replaced Wilkins, who was axed by the club two weeks ago. But Kalou insists all the off-the-field speculation and the departure of Wilkins has had little effect on them.

"It has not been weird for us," he said. "Everything has been the same. We have trained like normal. Chelsea is a big club. When things aren't going well we have to be focused and not concentrate on other things outside.

"This weekend against Newcastle is a big game. We are back to winning ways and we have to continue. This weekend will be a good game again for us."

Chelsea had over 60 shots in their games against Birmingham and Zilina but only managed to score twice, but Kalou insists they are not overly concerned about the sudden drought. "There are moments like that in the season – every team has ups and downs and at this moment everything is not going as we want. But we have to keep working hard. We created a lot of chances last time at Birmingham and we have to start scoring them now."

Chelsea increased the tempo in the second-half against the Slovakia side and Sturridge put them back into the game when he slipped the ball into the net at the far post six minutes after the re-start. The former Manchester City striker knows they need to rediscover their clinical finishing if they are to keep themselves in the running for another title triumph.

Chelsea now top the Premier League only on goal difference from Manchester United and their trip to Newcastle, humbled 5-1 at Bolton last weekend, provides them with a perfect opportunity to end their problems in front of goal. Sturridge warned that it is only a matter of time before they start scoring in numbers again.

"We need to be putting more away," said Sturridge. "We are trying our best and working on our finishing every day but the ball is just not running for us at the moment. We are taking 25 shots and only scoring two but it will only be a matter of time before we score a five, six or seven. We are playing with confidence again. Hopefully we can score some of the chances we create. The last few games have been hard but we have confidence and we need to kick on."

Meanwhile, injured captain John Terry admits it has been difficult for him to sit and watch Chelsea struggle in recent weeks. The Blues have won just once in the last four League games and Terry has since been sidelined by a trapped nerve in his right thigh.

"It has been really difficult to miss our last two games and the England match between them," said Terry. "You want to be out there for every single minute of every game and it is not easy to have to sit any out. Watching from the stands, especially when we are up against it, is difficult when you are captain. Last season we were double winners for a reason and that is simply because we were better than everybody else. We will fight to keep it that way."

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