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As Hiddink lines up new role at Chelsea, Ancelotti knows he can#x26;#8217;t lose his way

03 Oct 2009 23:06:00

As Hiddink lines up new role at Chelsea, Ancelotti knows he can#x26;#8217;t lose his way

The figure of Guus Hiddink will loom large over Chelsea today as Liverpool come to Stamford Bridge. For Chelsea's current manager, Carlo Ancelotti, knows that if he isnot to repeat the fate of predecessor Luiz Felipe Scolari, and end up afootnote in the history of the club, then a victory is imperative. Hiddink, a hugely popular manager with owner Roman Abramovich, theplayers and the fans during his interim stint last season, is beinglined up to sit on the Chelsea board at the end of the season, once hehas completed his current responsibilities with Russia. Under pressure: Carlo Ancelotti knows he must beat Liverpool  Chelsea's great start cannot mask flaws that will wreck their title bidWolves 0 Portsmouth 1: Yebda serves perfect tonic as Pompey win at lastHull 2 Wigan 1: Tigers roar at last as pressure is eased for boss Phil Brown Bolton 2 Tottenham 2: Corluka secures point but Spurs hoodoo continuesCHELSEA FC: All the latest news from across the webThe affable Dutchman all but confirmed the fact on Dutch TV last week when he said: 'I have regular discussion with Roman and with the people at Chelsea. We speak from time to time on how things are going.' Pressed on whether he would return to Chelsea, Hiddink added: 'I don't intend to come back as manager. It would be something different.' Indeed, with Frank Arnesen's position as sporting director under threat after his signing of 16-year-old Gael Kakuta resulted in the two-year transfer ban which Chelsea are currently fighting, Hiddink would be a natural replacement. But his presence and influence would surely not be welcomed by Ancelotti, who is experiencing his first bout of real pressure since taking over last summer. Ridiculous though it seems, given that the Italian has overseen nine victories in 10 games, has won the Community Shield, stands near the top of the Premier League and is almost certain to progress to the last 16 in the Champions League, his role will come under intense scrutiny should Chelsea play as they did against Wigan and Apoel Nicosia in their past two games. The capricious nature of Abramovich knows few bounds, as Claudio Ranieri, Jose Mourinho, Avram Grant and Scolari have found to their cost in the past six years. The Russian oligarch dropped in to take a look at training on Friday and spoke with Ancelotti, although he did not reveal whether he was happy with the club's progress or not. But as Scolari could testify, when Abramovich pops into training, it is time to worry. Countdown: Guus Hiddink will return in a different role at Cheslea The Brazilian's departure last season was preceded by a number of visits by the owner to the training ground. In November, Ancelotti's team take on Manchester United at home and Arsenal away, then Manchester City at the beginning of December. Given that Hiddink would effectively be available for some work, even if only on a parttime basis, from November 18 when the World Cup qualifying play-offs are completed, it would be a bad time to lose form. Last week an inept defensive display at Wigan and a disjointed midfield performance in Cyprus posed the first serious questions about Ancelotti's Chelsea and while Frank Lampard reacted tetchily to suggestions that the team were no longer 'clicking', his teammate Ricardo Carvalho was more candid. 'We have to do much better,' said the Portuguese centre-half. 'Liverpool are much better than Apoel; we won't be able to play like that again. We made too many mistakes and that made life much more difficult for ourselves. Because of that, they improved their game and created chances. It was much more difficult than it should have been because we played so badly. Everyone realises that we have to do much better than this and we will play much better.' By all accounts, Ancelotti's eruption in the dressing room in Cyprus, where they at least won 1-0, was even more fearsome than that following the shambolic 3-1 defeat at Wigan. 'The manager started to be angry at Wigan and after the Apoel game he was even more angry because again we didn't play well,' said Carvalho. 'But he has reasons to be angry. Sometimes he is so angry he speaks in Italian - then you know he is really upset. He starts to shout and you know he is angry.' It was assistant manager Ray Wilkins who suggested to Ancelotti should express himself in his mother tongue when truly annoyed with the players, as his English is still inadequate for that job, and Italian was the lingua franca on Wednesday, though no translation was required for the players. It has been impossible to ignore parallels with Scolari, another wellrespected and a initially popular Latin manager with limited English, who began last season in swashbuckling style only to stumble after Rafa Benitez exposed tactical limitations with a 1-0 win at the Bridge at the end of October last year. That ended Chelsea's four-year, 86-match unbeaten home run and cost them their aura of invincibility. Defeats by Roma, Burnley (on penalties) and Arsenal quickly followed and, with the previously impregnable team looking increasing disorganised in midfield, doubts crept in, not least among the players. 'I hope this season will be different,' said Carvalho. 'Everyone realises we have to play better, everyone knows this.' There is no suggestion the players have lost confidence in Ancelotti, as they did with Scolari in the last two months of his regime. Under fire: Chelsea face a must-win game against Liverpool Training, which was considered too lax under the Brazilian, is intense and fitness is not lacking, with Bruno Demichelis, architect of the world famous AC Milan lab which was credited with prolonging the careers of Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Costacurta and even, last season, David Beckham, now in charge of sports science at Chelsea. However, the pattern of tactical weakness may yet repeat itself. Benitez executed his ambush simply be pressurising Scolari's marauding wing-backs and stifling play from their holding midfielder. His plan was then imitated. Ancelotti's midfield diamond is similarly reliant on full-backs for its attacking width and in midfield on Wednesday, none of the quartet, with Frank Lampard at its apex, Michael Essien at its base and Juliano Belletti and Florent Malouda as notional wide players, seemed sure of their precise positions and as their distribution deteriorated, they were often overrun. Benitez is planning to replicate last season's masterstroke and he has history with the Blues boss, having overseen Liverpool's extraordinary comeback over Ancelotti's AC Milan side in 2005 to snatch the European Cup on penalties after overturning a three-goal deficit. Benitez, though, has tactical problems of his own after defeat at Fiorentina and Ancelotti, who gained revenge for the 2005 debacle by beating Liverpool two years later to win the European Cup in Athens, remains unworried. 'Every game, the other team know very well how we play and they try to block our full-backs,' he said. 'But attacking with the full-backs is not the only quality of this team. We want to play that way and use all the pitch to attack but we also have fantastic strikers and midfielders. 'It's important that the atmosphere around us is a good atmosphere and this is the case. It is impossible to play every match at your best. In Italy, not only the Press but the club and the fans put pressure on you. In England it is easier to control the pressure.' Should he win today, that will undoubtedly be true; in defeat, he may discover his new country of residence is not as benign as she seems.


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