Ancelotti hails departed Wilkins

Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti today paid tribute to departed assistant Ray Wilkins but insisted it was business as usual ahead of their Barclays Premier League clash with Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Chelsea revealed they would not be renewing Wilkins' contract yesterday and that he would be leaving the club with immediate effect but Ancelotti was reluctant to embroider the decision with any real detail during the club's pre-match press conference at Cobham.

Ancelotti was careful with his words over the shock departure of Wilkins and claimed he had nothing but admiration for the 54-year-old.

Wilkins was watching a reserve game against Bayern Munich at Cobham yesterday when he was asked to attend a meeting with the club's chief executive Ron Gourlay, where his employment was terminated.

"I just want to say one thing," said Ancelotti. "Ray was a fantastic assistant coach and I want to say thanks to him because he was a fantastic support last season and this.

"He did a fantastic job. He helped me and the team win the double. So the first thing is to say a lot of thanks to him.

"He is my friend. I have a fantastic relationship with him, and I will have a fantastic relationship with him. The club made this decision.

"It was a difficult decision for everyone, but I have respect for this decision.

"I have trust in all the staff who are working with me, but we have to move on now.

"We have to look forward and focus on the next game. It will be an important season for us, and it's important to move on.

"He knew English football very well and was experienced as an assistant. He did his job very well.

"I spoke with the players, just to tell them that the club made this decision.

"We have to move on and stay focused. The players are focused on this season. They will continue to be focused.

"Ray did not say goodbye to the players yesterday, but he will have the opportunity to come here and say hello to everyone."

The club are now weighing up their options and there remains the possibility of a promotion from within with first-team coach Paul Clement favourite for the job following his rapid rise from youth and reserve team coaching.

But the loss of Wilkins was followed by another blow in the form of a training ground setback for England midfielder Frank Lampard.

He was set to return against Sunderland from hernia and tendon injuries but he pulled-up in training yesterday with an adductor problem that will sideline him for a further three weeks.

"Lampard is not fit," said Ancelotti. "He had a problem yesterday during training.

"He did a fantastic training session yesterday, then had a problem on his adductor at the end.

"I think he will be out again for two or three weeks, until the start of December. We are disappointed because he was so close to coming back into training.

"It's bad news, but it's the same - we have to move on. It would have been a fantastic moment for him to replace suspended Michael Essien, a chance to put a player with experience and personality on the pitch, but we have to wait for him.

"He has a problem with his adductor, but he doesn't need surgery.

"We have Alex out with a problem on his knee - he'll have a consultation on Monday. Didier Drogba, who had malaria, should have recovered well by Sunday in order to play. Nicolas Anelka was not able to play against Fulham, but will train tomorrow and will be able to play."

Chelsea opted not to appeal against Essien's red cad against Fulham for his tackle on Clint Dempsey, so Ramires will almost certainly deputise for the Ghanaian. If Chelsea keep Sunderland at bay on Sunday it will see Chelsea set a new club record of 10 consecutive clean sheets and Ancelotti is proud of the run.

"My teams don't concede too many goals. I like to defend. I don't want to think about this record because it'll bring bad luck. It's important now, the defenders are doing very well individually and as a group."

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