Carlo Ancelotti defends Fernando Torres display

Carlo Ancelotti insisted he had not abandoned his plans to partner Fernando Torres with Didier Drogba despite dropping the latter for Chelsea's west London derby draw at Fulham.

Ancelotti controversially axed Drogba for last night's goalless game at Craven Cottage after the Ivory Coast striker and £50million man Torres failed to hit it off in the previous weekend's defeat to Liverpool.

But the Blues boss revealed he was already considering restoring the partnership for next week's Champions League last-16 first leg at FC Copenhagen, with Torres cup-tied for Saturday's FA Cup fourth-round replay against Everton.

"Maybe in the next game we will use both," he said, before explaining his reasons for leaving out Drogba yesterday.

"We wanted to have more control of the pitch in this game," he added.

Ancelotti's tactical switch failed to pay off, with Torres enduring another outing to forget eight days after his disappointing debut against former club Liverpool.

Despite once again substituting him, his new manager defended the most expensive player ever bought by a British club.

"Fernando played well," Ancelotti said.

"He had some opportunities in the first half and I took him out just to use Didier fresh and with power. That's the only reason I changed him.

"His performance was better than that against Liverpool."

Torres wasted four good chances either side of half-time.

"Every striker wants to score," Ancelotti said.

"I don't think he's frustrated because he needs time to play with us."

Of Drogba's reaction to his omission, Ancelotti added: "I don't know if Didier was happy, but every player knows every game is important.

"We wanted to rotate to maintain his condition and to give everyone great motivation."

Last night's result saw Chelsea fail to reclaim fourth place from Tottenham, who ended the evening two points ahead of the faltering champions.

Ancelotti was confident both Spurs and third-placed Manchester City could be overhauled, saying: "I'm an optimist and there's good reason to have confidence."

One reason appears to be the arrival of David Luiz, who, unlike Torres, shone last night.

The Brazil defender almost spoilt an imperious display by conceding a 93rd-minute penalty saved by Petr Cech.

Ancelotti said: "Maybe he was tired.

"He'd played a very good game, showing fantastic ability as a defender and as a player."

Opposite number Mark Hughes agreed, saying: "Luiz, who I've seen many times for Benfica, played very well.

"But I thought my two centre-halves stuck to their tasks as well. They've been absolutely magnificent all season."

Hughes, who claimed Clint Dempsey's penalty should have been retaken due to encroachment, added of Brede Hangeland: "Brede did well to start the game after having a raging temperature all afternoon.

"He wanted to start the game. We didn't think he would finish it."



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