Ancelotti says Manchester City are title rivals

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The Independent Football

Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti insists Manchester City are still in the Barclays Premier League title race this season under fellow Italian Roberto Mancini.

Ancelotti's side head into 2010 top of the table but suffered an inconsistent December, while City recorded back-to-back wins after appointing Mancini to take over from Mark Hughes.

Sir Alex Ferguson has predicted a two-horse race for the championship between his Manchester United side and Chelsea, but Ancelotti said: "A lot of teams will be involved in the fight for the title.

"I think the last results, the result of Manchester City above all, show they have an opportunity to return to the top four. "I don't want to forget Arsenal, I don't want to forget Manchester City or any other teams. I don't know if Arsenal, Aston Villa, Tottenham or Liverpool can fight for the title, but I know that to play against them is not easy. "It's a very competitive championship, this. Staying at the top of the list, for us, for six months is a very good situation. We did a very good job in these six months to maintain this first place in the league."

Ancelotti, however, believes Mancini will find it difficult to attract top players to Eastlands when the January transfer window opens.

"I think it's very difficult to buy top players at this moment," he said. "The teams that have top players keep them in January. That's normal." Ancelotti's attention turns to the FA Cup this weekend, with his side hosing Watford on Sunday at Stamford Bridge.

The Chelsea boss has France striker Nicolas Anelka returning from a calf problem but Didier Drogba, John Mikel Obi and Salomon Kalou have gone to the African Nations Cup, and Michael Essien will join them when he recovers from injury.

Ancelotti is still expected to pick a strong team against Coca-Cola Championship opponents.

"I want to put out my best team," he said.