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English Premiership

Ancelotti calls for focus

LONDON, February 6 – Carlo Ancelotti believes Chelsea can shrug off the controversy surrounding captain John Terry by delivering a knock-out blow to title rivals Arsenal on Sunday.Terry was sacked as England skipper by Fabio Capello on Friday as the Italian reacted quickly to quell any threat of dressing room unrest following allegations that the Chelsea defender had been having an affair with the ex-girlfriend of international team-mate Wayne Bridge.

Capello’s decision reportedly left Terry in a state of shock and it would be understandable if he wasn’t in the right frame of mind to feature at Stamford Bridge this weekend.

But Ancelotti has been impressed with Terry’s ability to block out the controversy since his alleged liaison with Vanessa Perroncel, an underwear model who is now estranged from former Chelsea left-back Bridge, first came to light last week.

The Italian made it clear the centre-back has been able to cope admirably with everything thrown at him and he expects more of the same against the Gunners.

"John is able to leave his problems outside the training ground. He has done this well because he is a very strong character. Every coach would like to train a player with John Terry’s behaviour," Ancelotti said.

"I have a very good relationship with John. I am not interested in the private life of anybody. I want to support John because it is not an easy moment for him.

"If the private life of a player doesn’t affect his professional life I don’t have a problem. If John is unable to train because he is tired or nervous I can be interested, but not if he is always ready to train and always focused.

"He didn’t kill anybody. I train a club and Capello trains a national team. To keep Terry as Chelsea captain is my decision. I think this can be a good motivation for us to do better."

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The eyes of the football world will be on Terry’s every move if he does lead Chelsea out for a crucial London derby that has significant implications for both teams.

Ancelotti’s side will have lost first place by kick-off on Sunday if Manchester United defeat Portsmouth 24 hours earlier, but a win would regain pole position and leave Arsenal languishing nine points behind the leaders.

The Blues boss knows a repeat of Chelsea’s 3-0 demolition of the Gunners at the Emirates Stadium in November would all but end Arsenal’s challenge and he plans to use the same tactics which inspired that win.

Ancelotti told his players to crowd out Arsenal’s creative midfielders before attacking on the break and his plan worked a treat.

"We have a very good opportunity to send Arsenal a long distance from our position. I think that for them it will be difficult to return to the top if they lose," Ancelotti said.

"We are working to repeat the same result. Tactically we did very well. Arsenal has good quality in midfield, they have Fabregas, Arshavin, Nasri, so we don’t give them the possibility to play easily."

After a week spent licking their wounds following last Sunday’s crushing 3-1 home defeat to Manchester United, Arsene Wenger has urged his Arsenal players to play with more freedom against the Blues.

United ruthlessly exposed Arsenal’s flaws in defence and attack but Wenger is convinced they can get right back in the title race with a win on Sunday.

"I believe we should be more relaxed at this time because at the start of the season nobody expected us in the top four or in the title race," he said.

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"Now, instead of being intimidated, I believe we have to really have a go because we are entitled to have it.

"The biggest regret I have from Sunday against Manchester United is that we gave them too much freedom and allowed them to play too much in a game where we should have been dictating.

"My team wanted it so much that sometimes you can be a little bit restricted and our target is to get that freedom to play against Chelsea."

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