Chelsea strike it rich with 'unplayable' leading men

Chelsea 3 Burnley 0
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The Independent Online

To the outsider, the idea of pairing Didier Drogba up front with Nicolas Anelka for Chelsea has always seemed blindingly obvious. Yet since Anelka arrived in January 2008, no-one has had the nerve to play the two of them together for any significant length of time. None of Avram Grant, Luiz Felipe Scolariand Guus Hiddink ever picked the two strikers together with any great conviction. The duo might have played the odd time as a strike pair but not in the big games, when more often than not Anelka was asked to do his duty wide on the right.

Only Carlo Ancelotti, after four Chelsea managers and 20 months, has given Drogba and Anelka the opportunity they have craved. So far this season, with four League wins out of four, it has been working. Captain John Terry has seen enough. "When Didi and Nico are up front together they are virtually unplayable – they're strong, quick and they score goals," he said.

Anelka could have had a hat-trick against Burnley, but had to settle for the game's opening strike, set up for him by Drogba with an inviting cross struck low from the right.

Burnley keeper Brian Jensen twice denied Anelka with brave dives at his feet, just two of his repertoire of saves that kept down the scoreline to respectable proportions.

Jensen also starred in Burnley's shock 1-0 victory over Manchester United 10 days ago, and he knows which side he fancies for the title. "I am a Man U fan myself but, personally, I think Chelsea are the team to beat so far," he confessed. "The movement, the full-backs coming forward, the attacking football, the passing is great to watch and everyone can see the quality. I just saw blue shirts everywhere. It was a bit of a lesson for us."

The combination of Anelka and Drogba is one of Ancelotti's masterstrokes, but there are many more as he plots his velvet revolution.

He has coaxed the best out of Ricardo Carvalho and Deco, the Portuguese pair who were discarded by Hiddink and had seemed destined to be reunited with former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho at Internazionale.

Ancelotti has also got Michael Ballack back to his goalscoring best, his header here his second goal in two games. Ashley Cole is also playing like the adventurous, goalscoring full-back that he used to be at Arsenal. His goal – the first he has scored for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge – that confirmed the win was glorious: a one-two with Lampard and a powerful half-volley that eluded Jensen's paw.

Ancelotti is also lucky to have Michael Essien in his devastating pomp, providing the energy at the heart of the team. Chelsea moved top on goal difference, and Ballack said the club are confident of coping with the pressures of setting the early pace.

The German said: "We are always happy when we are first. We know this situation and can deal with it. It's early but we've started well and the victories have given us a lot of confidence."

Burnley had their moments, not least when Martin Paterson should have put them ahead in the 10th minute. But they were on the back foot for long spells, and but for the reactions of Jensen, they could have been humiliated. Jensen said: "We won't be playing Chelsea next week – we just have Liverpool."

Chelsea (4-1-2-1-2): Cech; Bosingwa (Belletti, 56), Carvalho, Terry, A Cole; Essien; Ballack (Mikel, 83), Lampard; Deco; Anelka, Drogba (Kalou, 75). Substitutes not used: Hilario (gk), Ivanovic, Malouda, Sturridge

Burnley (4-5-1): Jensen; Mears, Carlisle, Bikey, Jordan; Fletcher, Elliott, Alexander (McDonald, 74), McCann, Blake (Guerrero, 78); Paterson (Gudjonsson, 59). Substitutes not used: Penny (gk), Kalvenes, Thompson, Eagles

Referee: M Clattenburg (Co Durham).

Booked: Burnley Mears.

Man of the match: Essien.

Attendance: 40,906.