Ancelotti plays down Blues slump

CHELSEA VS MARSEILLE

CHELSEA manager Carlo Ancelotti insists he has not demanded a reaction from his team despite seeing their air of invincibility corroded by back-to-back defeats.

Enforced absences have also hit Ancelotti’s preparations, with midfielder Frank Lampard among a number of injured players and striker Didier Drogba suspended for the visit of his former club Marseille.

“I don’t ask them to have a reaction. We just have to play our football,” said Ancelotti yesterday. “We have to pay attention and get the points from this game. I don’t need to see a reaction from my players; they will have a good game because it is an important game for us to arrive at the top of the group. It is just for this.”

Lampard’s recovery from a hernia operation has been put back again, meaning he will now not return until after next month’s international break. Captain John Terry is set to start, but Salomon Kalou and Yossi Benayoun are also sidelined, leaving Ancelotti to choose between youngsters Daniel Sturridge and Gael Kakuta to join Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda in an attacking trident.

“I think I have a lot of options,” Ancelotti added. “We have to consider Daniel Sturridge and Gael Kakuta. It is normal during a season to have two or three injuries – this is not a problem. We have a good mix in the squad with young players that are improving and players with experience.”

It is not the ideal selection scenario for Ancelotti as he looks to engineer a return to form following the midweek Carling Cup exit to Newcastle and Saturday’s defeat to Premier League title rivals Manchester City.

But the Italian said he had been mollified by Arsenal’s surprise weekend defeat at home to West Brom.

“I was surprised by the result of Arsenal,” he said. “I said before Saturday that it would be very difficult to be unbeaten during the season. So we are not so upset to lose our unbeaten record, but we have to look forward. It will not be the last time we lose a game.”