Chelsea can cope without Drogba insists Ancelotti

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The Independent Online

Carlo Ancelotti is confident Chelsea will cope without Didier Drogba next month.

Drogba has scored 19 times this season and his absence at the African Nations Cup has robbed the Blues of the Barclays Premier League's most prolific striker.

Salomon Kalou, John Obi Mikel and Michael Essien will also be competing at the tournament, but it is the loss of Drogba that will have the greatest impact.

Ancelotti, however, is unperturbed by the Ivory Coast marksman's departure and looks to this season's Champions League campaign for reassurance.

"Didier has scored 19 goals but without him this year we've done very well," said the Chelsea manager.

"We won three games in the Champions League when he wasn't playing and we can do the same in the Premiership."

Drogba fired the equaliser in yesterday's 2-1 victory over Fulham, a result that restored Chelsea's lead at the top of the Premiership to five points.

It concluded a challenging month consisting of two defeats, four draws and just two victories in all competitions on a triumphant note.

Chelsea's failings led to doubts over their ability to last the course in the title race, but Ancelotti is looking to January with renewed confidence.

The loss of the African contingent is tempered by a Premier League fixture list consisting of clashes with Hull, Sunderland, Birmingham and Burnley.

Nicolas Anelka is also expected back for Sunday's FA Cup clash with Watford following his battle with a calf injury.

Ancelotti added: "December has been a difficult time because we lost some physical condition because we played many games. We also sustained some injuries.

"In January we will play just one match per week and this is good for us to improve ourselves and get fit.

"It will help the recovery of important players like Anelka."

Fulham's defeat at Stamford Bridge left them with a disappointing return of one point from two matches, having dominated Spurs on Boxing Day yet been held to a goalless draw.

They led against Chelsea with a fourth-minute goal by Zoltan Gera but Drogba equalised before defender Chris Smalling cruelly turned a shot by Daniel Sturridge into his own net.

Smalling was making his full debut in place of the injured Brede Hangeland and did not deserve to be held responsible as he was otherwise outstanding throughout.

"You can't wish for a better place to make your first start," said the 20-year-old.

"Obviously you look at their team sheet and it's full of world-class players and I think we more than held our own and were unlucky in the end.

"When you see you're up against Drogba, who is one of the best strikers in the world right now, it's what you play football for when you're young.

"I definitely enjoyed it out there and I thought it was a good team performance and hopefully there will be more to come for me in the league.

"I've played a few games in Europe and hopefully I can push on now."

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