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Swashbuckling Chelsea strengthen Carlo’s claims

CARLO ANCELOTTI’S unshakeable confidence less than a week ago that he would still be Chelsea manager next season provoked raised eyebrows among some observers.

The doubters are biting their tongues for now, however, after the Blues ran riot for a second successive game, tearing Aston Villa to shreds 7-1 on Saturday.

That romp came just three days after Chelsea had emerged from their slump with a 5-0 drubbing of Portsmouth, and has restored momentum to their title bid.

Leaders Manchester United remain in control, one point ahead with six matches remaining, but Ancelotti has proven that if his swashbuckling side do fail, it will not be because they scored too few goals.

“When we play our best attacking football, we are able to overcome any defence,” said Ancelotti. “It is important that we play our best football until the end of the season in the Premier League and the FA Cup. We can make this a fantastic season if we finish in the right way. We have shown that we have the mentality to recover well and the players performed how I would have liked us to.”

Chelsea’s trip to Old Trafford on Saturday has long been earmarked as a potential title decider, but with the two teams separated by so slim a margin, and third-placed Arsenal faltering, it has taken on even greater significance.

Frank Lampard, fresh from hitting four goals against Villa to become the club’s third highest scorer of all time, is relieved Chelsea have shaken off the malaise that saw them dumped out of Europe and held at Blackburn in time for a game they cannot afford to lose.

“We will look at that game with confidence,” said the England midfielder. “We understand the importance of it and United will understand that as well.

“We have to prepare right for it. It is nice to go into the game with confidence and out of that little rut we’ve been in. Our passing and movement against Villa was fantastic.”

NET GAINS | WHAT A DIFFERENCE
Chelsea’s recent goal sprees are not just good for confidence – they could yet give them the edge in a closely-contested title race. The 13 strikes they have racked up in two games have seen the Blues make up huge ground and then overtake Manchester United in the goal difference stakes. Chelsea can now approach the run-in knowing that, if points are level and goal difference remains stable, the title is theirs.