All change for Blues as Ancelotti focuses on title race

Carlo Ancelotti, the Chelsea manager, has ripped apart the team that defeated Sunderland 7-2 a week ago for today's FA Cup fourth-round tie away to Preston North End because he believes his team are about to enter a decisive period in the Premier League.

Chelsea were knocked off top spot by Arsenal in midweek, a position they had held since mid-October. Starting with next Wednesday's home fixture with Birmingham City, Chelsea face five league games in a 15-day spell. Which means that yesterday when Ancelotti announced his team to play Preston, there was no room for Joe Cole and Florent Malouda, two of six players rested after last weekend's stellar performance.

Petr Cech and Branislav Ivanovic were also omitted by Ancelotti, who revealed that scans have shown that Michael Essien will be out for between four and six weeks after suffering a meniscus cartilage tear in his knee.

The changes represent something of a gamble as only three weeks ago Ancelotti claimed that retaining the FA Cup was one of the major goals of the season. But the Italian insisted that he must rotate his team to ensure everyone in the squad stays sharp.

"Joe Cole and Malouda will start on the bench because I want to give Deco time to improve his condition," he said. "Now we start a very important period of the season because we will not have free weeks to train."

The decision to omit Cole is an interesting one because it ends a run of three successive starts for the England midfielder, his longest run in the team this season. Cole has yet to agree terms on a new contract to replace his current deal which expires in June. Ancelotti said he remains "100 per cent" certain Cole will stay at the club yet at the same time cannot promise the 28-year-old a starting place.

"No, I cannot guarantee to Joe that he'll play in every game," he said. "I cannot guarantee that to any of my players. I never guarantee that, even the big players. How can a manager guarantee that? That's impossible."

Ancelotti promised his much-changed side will not take lightly the trip to a club lying 17th in the Championship. "There are strange results in the last round and we don't want to have a strange result in this round," he said. "It is, for us, an important aim for this season and we have to try to win."

However, Chelsea's eyes are on a greater prize. The date of 7 February is looming large for Ancelotti, when Chelsea host Arsenal in the Premier League, and he believes the period between now and then will truly test Arsenal's title credentials. "They have a very strong period – Aston Villa, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool," the manager said.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried