Chelsea's record of five successive wins in the Premier League prompted their manager, Carlo Ancelotti, yesterday to suggest that teams soon might start to fear his side.
"I hope so but I don't think so, yet," a cautious Ancelotti said. Yet a glance back to the end of last season, when Guus Hiddink was in charge, and the evidence becomes far more convincing. The Blues finished the season with five league wins, giving them a perfect 10 – four short of Arsenal's Premier League record of 14 set in 2002.
In fact, in the 18 league games since Luiz Felipe Scolari was sacked in February, Chelsea under Hiddink and Ancelotti have taken 49 points out of a possible 54. As an indication of just how impressive that is, over a whole season it would equate to 103 points, which is eight more than the record 95 set by Chelsea five seasons ago.
It is a phenomenal run of form, the only reverse being a 1-0 defeat to tomorrow's opponents Tottenham back in March. Ancelotti said he had expected his Chelsea team to start the season well, but admitted they are far from unbeatable.
"I've never seen an unbeatable team. Chelsea are not unbeatable," he said. "We are doing well. I'm not surprised because I had one month before the start to know the players and their mental attitude and quality."
Ancelotti has instead been surprised, however, by Tottenham, who surrendered their perfect start to the season to Manchester United last weekend. The Italian said: "For me, it was a surprise they started so well. We know the quality of [Peter] Crouch, [Jermain] Defoe, [Aaron] Lennon. They can be dangerous because they are very quick. We mustn't leave the possibility of them to counter-attack against us."
Ancelotti then singled out the in-form Defoe as the man Chelsea must stop. "He's very dangerous. When a striker scores every game like Defoe we have to pay particular attention," Ancelotti said. "For him it's a very good moment. We have to pay good attention. We will do a very good job on him."
The English players at Chelsea have made Ancelotti well aware of the particular rivalry the club's supporters feel with Tottenham. "When I arrived I asked, because I don't know which is the real derby, because there are a lot of teams in London," he said. "All the English players told me Tottenham was the real derby. So we want to prepare this like a derby.
"It is important for our supporters, and also it is important for us because we want to stay at the top of the table. We want to maintain this position and if possible to improve the distance between us and second place."