Chelsea return to the scene of their finest hour tomorrow determined to prove they have the depth of character needed to scale the heights of English football once again.
It was at Bolton's Reebok Stadium in April 2005 that Chelsea completed a 2-0 victory that confirmed the club's first top-flight title for 50 years. The Blues had already won the Carling Cup that season, which was Jose Mourinho's first trophy at the club, and two goals from Frank Lampard were enough for them to claim the Premier League title with three games to spare.
Four and a half years later, Chelsea return to Bolton tomorrow eager to see history repeat itself. In Carlo Ancelotti's first season in charge at Stamford Bridge, they lead the table by two points, and their midweek victory over tomorrow's opponents confirmed their place in the last eight of the Carling Cup.
Ancelotti's side however have much to prove at Bolton as their away form has been anything but that of potential champions. They are virtually unstoppable at home at the moment, with nine straight victories this season and just one goal conceded. But away from the Bridge it has been a very different story.
They have lost their last two away league games, at Wigan and Aston Villa, and face Bolton who will be bolstered by the return of the combative Kevin Davies in attack.
Florent Malouda, who scored in Chelsea's 4-0 win on Wednesday, agrees it is time for Chelsea to take their dominant form on the road.
"We've lost the last game away and we have to correct that," he said. "We have to be ready because the physical challenge will of course be there. We have to think about what happened against Villa. We were controlling the game, we were leading 1-0 then we conceded from two set-pieces.
"But in the last games we have corrected that and haven't conceded any goals from set-plays. We have to show we can travel and get the right score."
They have lost twice but generally there is a confidence about Ancelotti's side that has been absent from Chelsea's play since they were in their pomp under the bombastic Mourinho. The defence may not be quite as solid as it was when the "Special One" ruled the Stamford Bridge roost, but the pay-off is that they are playing more expansive football then they ever did under Mourinho.
With Ancelotti at the helm, they continue to go for the goals in games that in Mourinho's ruthless day would have petered out into comfortable 2-0 victories.
Having scored a remarkable 13 goals in their last three games, in three different competitions, Chelsea have stepped up their progress under Ancelotti. But the Italian recognises that being in control and racking up victories is all that counts. He said: "It's impressive but for us the first thing is to play well and to win a game. It happens we've won with large results, but that's not so important. Rather, we want to win the games."
Ancelotti's reticence is not shared by some of the players, who enjoy being let off the leash. Malouda said: "Our objective is to win, but if we can win with a lot of goals, it's good for the confidence, it's good for all the players to have that feeling we can score a lot of goals. We don't depend on one man. Everyone can score. We have a lot of movement, and the passing game has improved a lot under the new system."
Home comforts: How Chelsea struggle
Carlo Ancelotti enjoyed a fine start at Chelsea, winning his first nine games. Since a 1-0 win over QPR, however, Ancelotti's side have struggled for form away from the Bridge.
Chelsea since 26 September:
4 Played 3
4 Won 1
0 Drew 0
0 Lost 2
15 Goals for 3
0 Goals against 5Reuse content