LONDON, Dec 7 – Carlo Ancelotti expects Chelsea to use Tuesday's Champions League clash against APOEL Nicosia to erase the misery of their defeat at Manchester City.With top spot in Group D already secured after four wins from their five matches, it would be understandable if the Blues were less than 100 percent motivated against the Cypriot champions at Stamford Bridge.
But Blues boss Ancelotti is keen to finish the group stages with a flourish to lift the gloom following Saturday’s 2-1 loss to City.
Frank Lampard’s late penalty miss condemned Chelsea to their first league defeat since October and left the west London club just two points ahead of Manchester United at the top of the Premier League.
That defeat followed hot on the heels of Chelsea’s midweek League Cup exit on penalties against Blackburn and suddenly Ancelotti’s side, so widely praised after their impressive 3-0 win at Arsenal just a week ago, look mortal after all.
But losing at Wigan and Aston Villa earlier this season brought an immediate and resounding response from the Blues and former AC Milan coach Ancelotti is far too experienced to panic just yet.
"We don’t have any reason to be worried," he said. "It will be a race until the end of the season but we are still top of the league and have two more points than Manchester United so we do not need anything extra."
Captain John Terry is set to be sidelined on Tuesday after limping off with a knee injury against City, but Ancelotti expects him back for next Saturday’s home game against Everton.
While the Italian, who confirmed Lampard will remain Chelsea’s first choice penalty taker, is likely to rest several of his star names, he has no intention of allowing the stand-ins to go through the motions.
Nicolas Anelka’s goal sealed a 1-0 win over APOEL in Cyprus in September and Ancelotti will demand a more convincing win this time.
Chelsea can also send a message to their Champions League rivals by completing the group stage unbeaten and possibly with the best defensive record.
Ancelotti won the Champions League with Milan in 2003 and 2007, as well as reaching the 2005 final, and his back-four, featuring dominant performers like Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Costacurta and Alessandro Nesta, was key to that success.
But Chelsea have conceded just two goals in their five group games, an achievement equalled only by Barcelona and Bordeaux, and Ancelotti believes his current group of defenders are as good as the legendary unit he assembled at Milan.
"John Terry continues to play with great consistency, every game, with the same determination and concentration," Ancelotti said. "Terry has the same technical and leadership quality as Maldini. We can compare them.
"This is important to maintain a clean sheet, every game. It’s more difficult if you’ve only got one player performing like this, but we have (Ricardo) Carvalho and Ashley Cole having fantastic seasons."
Maldini retired at the age of 40 after winning seven Serie A titles medals and Ancelotti is confident Terry can match the Italian and go on playing well into his late 30s.
"We don’t have a physical problem with him. For me, he can have a very long career," Ancelotti added.
Although the match is a dead rubber for Chelsea, APOEL can qualify for the Europa League with a draw if Porto beat Atletico Madrid.