When Chelsea last won the Premier League title in 2006, Carlo Ancelotti was the coach of an AC Milan side embroiled in the corruption and match-fixing scandal that rocked Serie A. Now the manager of Chelsea, the Italian has dismissed the suggestion that tomorrow's games will be unethically influenced by rivalries and "old pals' acts".
While Chelsea visit Liverpool, Manchester United take on a Sunderland side managed by Steve Bruce, the former United captain. Given the rivalry with United, it would be hard to find a Liverpool supporter would not want his side to lose to Chelsea to prevent Sir Alex Ferguson's side claiming the title for a record 19th time - and move one clear of their Anfield foes in the record books. But Ancelotti does not expect Sunderland or Liverpool to surrender.
"I don't think about this," he said. "I think Sunderland will do the best to beat Manchester United [on Sunday] and the same for Liverpool to beat us. "I always think now and also in the past that the matches were clean in Italy. "There are some questions, but I always think the matches were clean. Here also, because this is a sport. Every team has to be respectful of the other team for the Premier League and overall for the sport.
"Every team has to do the best until the end of the season." Rafael Benitez, the Liverpool manager, has vented his frustration at the fixture list and the lack of time afforded to his team to rest after their extra-time Europa League semi-final defeat to Atletico Madrid on Thursday. But Ancelotti added: "Maybe they will be a little bit tired, but at Anfield I never see Liverpool tired. To have [Fernando] Torres out is a disadvantage for them because he's one of the most important strikers in the world. But they play a strong 90 minutes every time."
Ancelotti expects nothing less than a committed performance from a side led by Steven Gerrard - who inspired Liverpool to the famous Champions League final victory against Ancelotti's Milan in 2005 - and managed by a man courted by the Italian's former club Juventus. "I'm sure Benitez will be a success there," added Ancelotti. "Tactically he has fantastic experience so in Italy he will not have a problem.
"Gerrard, he's the best player and for this we have to pay attention. A lot of play comes from his feet, his mind. For me he's a fantastic midfielder." But Ancelotti will have his own inspirational captain, John Terry, back from suspension and he said: "It's easy for me to give motivation for my players for this kind of game. If we win two games we will be champions." If Chelsea could win the title and FA Cup, Ancelotti would have a claim to rival Fulham's Roy Hodgson for the award for Manager of the Year. But he smiled as he said: "Give it to Roy Hodgson. I'll be happy to win the title."