Carlo Ancelotti confessed on Friday that he has never met Ian Holloway. It is entertaining to imagine the Chelsea coach's famously expressive left eyebrow disappearing into his hairline when he is confronted for the first time with a full-on Ollie during and – if the Blackpool manager gets his way – after today's match at Stamford Bridge between the Premier League champions and the new boys.
The sense of humour that is usually evident not too far below Ancelotti's surface suggests that he will enjoy Holloway's company if they have time to get to know each other. With Chelsea's 100 per cent record this season it is likely that he will get the result that he wants, but the Italian will have drilled into his players the warning that they cannot afford to take their visitors lightly.
Ancelotti is familiar with the concept of the banana skin, or perhaps, in this case, the tangerine peel. It should not be forgotten that, as he spoke, Chelsea were facing their first match of the campaign against a top-four team, but all the same he believes that Holloway's task today could be easier than his own.
"It is a dangerous game, because they have a fantastic motivation," Ancelotti (right) said. "They have started the Premier League very well, they played three away games [out of four] and won two, and not in easy places. To play in Newcastle and to win means they have power, they have determination.
"When you play against a strong team, to find the motivation is very easy. It is more difficult to find motivation when you think it will be an easy game. It is easier to give motivation to my players when they play against Manchester United or Arsenal. But we have players with fantastic personalities and they know very well what their behaviours has to be."
Recent history suggests that Chelsea are not in much danger. They last conceded a goal at Stamford Bridge on 27 March – and even then beat Aston Villa 7-1. Since John Carew cancelled out Frank Lampard's opener in the 44th minute of that match, Chelsea have scored 30 goals at home without reply. The only League goal they have let in this season came with last Saturday's match away to West Ham United already comfortably won. "Now is a good moment," Ancelotti admitted. "My players are doing a fantastic job, they are happy, they are concentrating, they know very well when is the time to stay serious and when to joke. Our objective is to maintain this for a long time."
How long? Is a quadruple a possibility? "Nothing is impossible, but the Carling Cup isn't a priority," he said. "We want to use it to give experience to our young players. Obviously we want to try to win, but to win four competitions in a year would be very difficult. Not impossible."
Despite Chelsea's perfect start, Ancelotti seemed to discount an unbeaten League campaign, well aware that he has not yet faced a title rival. "It is difficult to avoid defeat for a year, because there are plenty of competitive teams," he said. "Now is too early to say that we are the best team. Arsenal at this moment are doing very well, and Manchester United are always a difficult team to play against. They had some problems against Fulham and Everton, but they will be involved in the fight for the top of the table."
Yet Chelsea are stronger than last season, thanks to the return from long-term injury of Michael Essien. "I think we missed him last year," Ancelotti said. "His injury was very bad for us. We lost a fantastic player and now his contribution is excellent. It's not easy to come back from a year out and play like he is doing now. He's starting to score goals – three in two games – and I hope he'll be fit for the year.
"He's [like] a new signing for us. He needs to rest, because he has been involved in every match from the start of the season but he is important because a lot of games here are physical, against very strong teams in terms of power. We had a difficulty on set-pieces last season, but this season it has been different. It is important to have power and physical strength."
Essien is unlikely to be given a day off today, while players who were rested in the Champions' League tie away to Zilina such as Paulo Ferreira, Ramires, Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and Ashley Cole will probably start. Ancelotti, in other words, will pay Blackpool every respect. Ian Holloway in the flush of victory can be an engaging experience, but not one that Ancelotti wants today.Reuse content