There will be the familiar chants at Anfield tomorrow about Chelsea's lack of what the Liverpool fans regard as a history comparable with that of their own club – so maybe it was a vain hope that Carlo Ancelotti expressed yesterday that the "history" of his side could be respected.
The Italian is two wins away from the Premier League title in his first season as manager and the third for Chelsea during the Roman Abramovich reign – not that it cuts much ice with the locals at Anfield. Their concept of history and the 18 titles their club has amassed to Chelsea's four, combined with Chelsea's extraordinary investment from Abramovich, leads to a certain amount of sneering.
Brought in by Abramovich to lend his team that nebulous concept of "a personality", Ancelotti said that Chelsea's achievements were no less worthy of respect. "The past is the past," he said. "Everyone respects the history of Liverpool. Everyone has to have respect for our history, too. Maybe it's a different history, but everyone has to have respect for the history of this club."
The necessity of keeping one point ahead of Manchester United going into the last game of the season, at Stamford Bridge against Wigan, means that tomorrow's game is up there with all the great Liverpool-Chelsea encounters of recent years. As for Ancelotti, a manager who has been singularly polite and respectful in his first season in England, he seems to be able to separate himself from the usual grudges and rifts.
He said yesterday that he hoped that he had given Chelsea "a new identity" on the pitch that is borne out by the 93 goals they have scored in the league this season, four short of the Premier League record. As for the much-discussed Liverpool carve-up this weekend, in order to prevent United winning a 19th title, Ancelotti was dubious.
"I always think, now and also in the past, that matches are clean," he said. "In Italy there were some questions, but I always thought the matches were clean. Every team has to have respect for the other teams and the Premier League and, above all, for the sport. Now, two games from the end, Liverpool are involved in the race for fourth place and every team has an aim."
This is the manager whose Milan team were the victim of Liverpool's famous 2005 Istanbul fightback, although he promised that he would behave himself if his team won at Anfield. "When I won the Champions League I ran on to the pitch like Jose [Mourinho against Barcelona]. But I won't do that on Sunday. I'm not able to run now. I'd risk injuring myself."
Much has been made of the way in which Ancelotti's Juventus team threw away an eight-point lead in the title race of 2000 and were pipped by Lazio. All that he would say of that was that he hoped it would not rain tomorrow – a reference to the critical game against Perugia when the second half was delayed by a downpour and Juventus went on to throw it away.
Available after suspension, John Terry is back in the Chelsea team tomorrow. "Terry needs to play," said Ancelotti, bluntly. So too the rest of his team, who were beaten by Tottenham in their last away match. What will be different this time? "I'm going to say the opposite to what I said before the Tottenham game," said Ancelotti, sounding like a man who is coping with the pressure.
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