Ancelotti fears a backlash from Zola

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The Independent Football

Carlo Ancelotti, the Chelsea manager, is preparing to lock horns with his apprentice tomorrow as he takes on Gianfranco Zola for the first time since he sold him in 1996.

Ancelotti was then the coach of Italian side Parma and had struggled to accommodate the impish Zola into his rigid 4-4-2 formation. In the end, Ancelotti took the decision to sell the striker to Chelsea for £4.5m, only to see Zola prove him wrong by resurrecting his career in spectacular fashion at Stamford Bridge.

In hindsight, Ancelotti admits his decision to allow Zola to leave Italy was wrong. But the two countrymen will meet on the touchline at the Boleyn Ground tomorrow, as Ancelotti looks to maintain Chelsea's hold at the top of the Premier League.

Zola, however, has the unenviable task of hauling West Ham out of the relegation zone. Ancelotti said: "I think Gianfranco Zola is not living a good moment, but he has the quality to improve. West Ham have a lot of injury problems but we have to pay attention to this game. It is a derby and they will put in a lot of spirit in this game.

"When you play a team at the bottom of the table, they will do their best to win. We have to give respect to every team because every team has a character and the determination not to go into the second division."

On his time at Parma with Zola, Ancelotti added, "Probably I made a mistake. I wanted to play 4-4-2, as a system, and I put them in the right positions but he wanted to stay in the centre like a striker. In that period, when there was this discussion, Chelsea offered him a good contract and he decided to come to Chelsea.."

Ancelotti has received a timely boost ahead of the London derby with striker Didier Drogba's recovery from back injury. Daniel Sturridge could make his third league appearance after impressing in training. "Drogba is good," Ancelotti added. "He trained well, is fit and will be ready. The other players stay well. For Sunday, we have Sturridge back. He is doing a very good job. He's had two fantastic weeks in training and will be ready to play."