Chelsea's exit from the Champions League on Tuesday evening was always going to bring about an inquest, coming as it did at the hands of Jose Mourinho, their former manager. The reaction from supporters will have focused on the players not performing when it mattered most in the loss to Inter Milan, rather than the impressive, structured way the Italian side gained control in the second leg last 16 victory at Stamford Bridge.
Carlo Ancelotti, who occupies Mourinho's former seat at Chelsea, will not be rushed into making changes. In a Premier League where they have been top for most of the season, it is these same players who have produced good performances on a consistent basis. Didier Drogba did not endear himself to many observers with an insipid displays and a reckless red card, but it was the striker and other senior figures such as Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack and John Terry that Ancelotti had in mind when he offered a defence of their failure.
"I think the players tried to do their best, but we didn't do our best. I have trust in these players' confidence," he said. "It can happen that, sometimes, we are not able to do what we want. I have fantastic, profess-ional players and we will have a very good reaction." His players owe him that much at Blackburn today. Sam Allardyce, the Rovers manager, has prepared his side for the visit of a "wounded animal".
Should defeat to Inter be followed by anything other than victory at Ewood Park, questions will be raised about the mentality of the players and Ancelotti himself - even though he only took charge last summer. The Italian will not entertain negative thoughts and has set his side a target of winning their 11 remaining games to secure league and FA Cup success. "Destiny is in our own hands. If we win every game, we can do the double," he said.
With a trip to Old Trafford to come it is certainly an ambitious target. It would be rare to see Chelsea's key players collectively perform as laboriously as they did against Inter for two games in a row. Questions have been asked about the desire, but Ballack, the German midfielder, insisted the players are motivated. "I am hungry. A club like Chelsea wants to win everything. To be out in such a big competition as the Champions League is a big disappointment for us, but that is football and our target is the league now," said Ballack.
"We have to be focused. To win the game against Blackburn, we must take on and win the battles." Allardyce will have Rovers prepared for exactly that. After four successive home league wins to elevate them to mid-table, his direct way of playing the game has been effective. "We have to be right tactically and we need 11 lads prepared to roll their sleeves up and work harder and run longer than they have done all season," he said.
That should make it tough for Chelsea, but a 5-0 defeat in October is a reminder of how destructive Ancelotti's side can be. email@example.com Blackburn v Chelsea, 8pm, Showsports 1 & 2