Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti believes Manchester United's exit from the Champions League will give them greater incentive to hang onto their Barclays Premier League crown.
United were beaten 2-1 by Chelsea last Saturday as the Blues went two points clear at the top of the table. But worse was to follow for Sir Alex Ferguson's side as they were dumped out of the Champions League on away goals by Bayern Munich on Wednesday night.
The double setback has convinced Ancelotti that United will now have even greater impetus to try to retain their status as domestic champions. "It is not good news they are out of the Champions League because they will be focused on the Premier League and we have to pay attention because they are close to us," Ancelotti said.
"They have the experience to stay focused on the Premier League because they have experience and quality.
"I would have preferred for Manchester United to have beaten Bayern Munich and stayed in the Champions League because it would be easier for us.
"United had a bad week, they lost the quarter-final and they lost against us. Now they have the possibility to come back against us and play well and win."
Chelsea hope to be boosted by the return of left-back Ashley Cole for the last three games of the title battle. Ancelotti insists Cole will be fit enough for England's World Cup squad after confirming the injured defender will make his first-team return against Stoke later this month.
England coach Fabio Capello had warned Cole that he would only pick him for the finals in South Africa this summer if he proved his fitness between now and the end of the season. Cole has been sidelined since February after breaking his ankle against Everton but Ancelotti believes he has enough time to prove his fitness.
"Ashley Cole is closer to playing," he said. "I think he will need some days to train and we hope he is available for the game against Stoke on April 25.
"Ashley is an important player for England and after the season they still have a month to get ready, so he will be ready for sure, but I have not spoken to Capello."