COBHAM, December 24 – Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti has taunted title rivals Arsenal by insisting the Gunners are scared of facing Didier Drogba.
Ancelotti is convinced Arsene Wenger’s defenders won’t relish the prospect of their latest meeting with Drogba when the champions travel to the Emirates Stadium for a crucial London derby on December 27.
Drogba has now scored an amazing 13 goals in 13 matches against Arsenal after his fine strike inspired Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Wenger’s team earlier this season.
After struggling for several weeks due to malaria, Drogba finally showed something like his best form in Chelsea’s 1-1 draw at Tottenham and Ancelotti believes the Ivory Coast striker will once again have a key role to play at Arsenal next week.
"I think they are a little bit afraid of the performance of Drogba because he has done very well against them," Ancelotti said.
"This is not the reason that will decide the game but if Drogba plays at his best, we’ll have more opportunity to win."
Ancelotti’s men will make the short trip across London to face Arsenal in confident mood despite a run of five league games without a win.
Chelsea have enjoyed some impressive results against the Gunners in recent years and, although the hosts can boast many attacking talents, Ancelotti expects his team to take advantage of weaknesses in the Arsenal defence.
"Every game has its own story," Ancelotti said. "Arsenal have fantastic ability and are able to play fantastic football. Maybe they concede something defensively, so we have to use our ability to find the right space to create difficulty in their defensive line.
"It is an important game obviously. Both teams are involved in the fight for the title and either can win this game.
"It will be an exciting game. I’m happy to play this game because we have moved on after our bad moment."
Ancelotti’s players will have gone 15 days without a game by the time they face Arsenal following the cancellation of last weekend’s meeting with Manchester United.
That has given Ancelotti time for some valuable extra training with his squad. Even more importantly, Frank Lampard has been able to hone his fitness after three months out of action due to injury.
The England midfielder, who had hernia surgery and then a groin problem, should start against Arsenal and Ancelotti said: "The advantage was we trained well and improved our condition. We used this time well. It was a good time for us and now we are ready to play.
"The important thing is the players are fit and able to play. Lampard will be excited to play after a long time out. He can give fantastic support to the team with his performances.
"We had a problem with a lot of injuries. For this reason we had a bad moment.
"When you are not in a good moment it is difficult to put young players in because we don’t want to put responsibility on their shoulders.
"Now it is different because we have a lot of players in good condition. We can play this game at our best."
Ancelotti, who will give his players the day off on Christmas Day, knows Chelsea can ill-afford to drop more points over the busy festive period after slipping three points behind leaders Manchester United, who also have a game in hand on the Blues.
"Manchester United did not lose a game this season. They have obtained results continuously. We don’t want this gap to increase," Ancelotti said.
"Arsenal, Man City and Tottenham also have the opportunity and skill to fight for the title until the end. It will be a race with balance because a lot of teams are capable of winning the title."