Chelsea finishing outside the top four in the Premier League this season is unthinkable, according to Marcel Desailly and Graeme Le Saux. But the former Stamford Bridge stars both insisted yesterday that Carlo Ancelotti would remain the right man to lead the faltering Blues even if they did not qualify for the Champions League.
Having bounced back from their worst league run for almost 15 years at the start of 2011, Chelsea have again slumped to fifth in the table after failing to win – or score in – either of their last two games. There are now just 12 matches remaining for the champions to claim a place in the top four and Desailly and Le Saux said they simply could not imagine them falling short.
Speaking at Uefa Headquarters for the official handover of the Champions League trophy to its corporate sponsors for a two-month tour of Asia, former France defender Desailly said: "Unthinkable, yes, because they need the Champions League."
Former England left-back Le Saux added: "To imagine them not qualifying is unthinkable. If they don't finish in the top two or three there'll be reasons for that, which I would think would be quite easy to explain."
Those reasons range from the departure of experienced players in the summer to injuries to key men, the sacking of assistant manager Ray Wilkins and the disruption caused by the record-breaking signings of Fernando Torres and David Luiz.
All this, as well as Ancelotti leading the club to a historic double in his first season at the helm, have made the Chelsea manager more bulletproof than his predecessors, according to Desailly.
"The difference between Ancelotti and the others is that he won [the Double]," said Desailly, who nevertheless believes the Italian is not without blame for the club's problems this term. "He needs to read his players a bit better and fit them into his own tactics."
Le Saux added: "Clearly it's a team that isn't as solid as it was, it's not been as consistent as it has been. They've had opportunities to win games and not taken them. That's really uncharacteristic of Chelsea.
"I watched them play against Fulham the other day and there wasn't an obvious pattern to how they were playing. It was a bit desperate.
"There were players pushing forward when maybe they shouldn't have been. There was this determination to win but it wasn't controlled. They created a lot of chances but they didn't make many good chances."
Nearly all those good chances fell to Torres, who endured another night to forget in his second outing in a Chelsea shirt. Le Saux said of the £50m signing: "That huge weight of expectation on his shoulders, you can't underestimate how much that can distract a player. Fernando Torres is a tremendous talent. It won't take long before he's really got his fitness and he's playing well and scoring goals."
Desailly added: "Torres is a top-class player. If he finds his rhythm and the famous confidence that we're talking about, he's close to being the [Marco] van Basten of Chelsea. It's just a matter of time."
In stark contrast to Torres, Luiz has shone in his two appearances and it could be said he bears more than a passing resemblance to Desailly in his pomp. "He's good, he's good, better than me," Desailly said. "Technically, anticipation of the ball... he has a great sensibility for the game."
Le Saux added: "His energy is unbelievable. His commitment, he's 100 per cent into the tackle. Technically, he's an excellent player, very versatile, and young."