Ancelotti admits Chelsea are out of the championship race
Saturday 12 February 2011
It was probably a good thing that Chelsea's new £25m defender David Luiz's limited grasp of the English language meant the Brazilian was blissfully ignorant of the significance of what his new manager Carlo Ancelotti was saying just a few feet away.
Ancelotti took the occasion of the official unveiling of his recent signing from Benfica to admit that his team's chances of retaining their Premier League title are effectively over.
Last weekend's home defeat to Liverpool was the champions' seventh of a disappointing season, and going into this weekend's fixtures they are 10 points behind leaders Manchester United with 13 games to go, including contests home and away with Sir Alex Ferguson's men.
It was enough for Ancelotti to concede that retaining the title is probably beyond his team, despite the recent frantic spending by club owner Roman Abramovich that saw Luiz and £50m striker Fernando Torres join the club during the final hours of last month's transfer window.
Given that Luiz has already played for Benfica in the Champions League and is therefore ineligible for Chelsea in Europe, the 23-year-old centre-half might have been harbouring dreams of lifting the Premier League this season, but Ancelotti appeared to be ruling it out yesterday when he said: "Now for us it is difficult to think that we can come back and fight for the Premier League title."
Ancelotti said a more realistic target might be to finish in the top four, while continuing to chase the FA Cup and the Champions League. The Italian said: "The gap is very big, we have to be honest. The most important thing is to reach fourth place in the table to maintain Chelsea in the Champions League and we have to fight with the other teams. It is better for us to take it game by game in the Premier League but we have to reach fourth place as a minimum."
Luiz came across as affable, laid-back and confident in his first press conference since the move. One encouraging sign was a promise to learn English as quickly as possible. "I am doing my best to learn. I like to talk and communicate," said Luiz, who will make his full debut on Monday night at neighbours Fulham.
Communicating with John Terry, his likely partner in defence, will be his priority but care will have to be taken concerning the subject matter, as Luiz is a committed Christian who mentioned his debt of gratitude to God several times yesterday.
He certainly has plenty to thank the Lord for, his excellence at football having taken him from a life on the breadline in Sao Paulo. Luiz is not widely known in his homeland, having moved to Portugal when he was 19, but that will change now he is at one of the richest clubs in the world. He said yesterday he does not forget where he came from.
"I grew up in a hard place in Sao Paulo. Many people in Brazil grow up in the same conditions as I did. I'm just grateful that I had parents who were able to work, even if they had to work every day to give the best life to me and my sister. I am eternally thankful for what my parents did for me and I want to honour them for as long as I can," he said.
His father Ladislau Marinho was a footballer with Atletico Mineiro in the city of Belo Horizonte but was forced to give up to become a teacher because he could not make ends meet.
"My dad played and his career was going very well but there was not enough money for him to support his wife, his children and his parents," Luiz said. "At 14 I moved from the family home to start my football career. I was 36 hours from home. I told them I would come back home when I could offer the life they deserved. Thanks to God I have managed to do that."
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
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