x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Ancelotti looks for right balance at Chelsea

When Carlo Ancelotti was in his prime as a player at AC Milan, he witnessed the perfect blend of attack and defence.

When Carlo Ancelotti was in his prime as a player at AC Milan, he witnessed the perfect blend of attack and defence. The Italian side were led up front by the flamboyance and finesse of Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten and protected by one of football's finest back lines, governed by the imperious Franco Baresi. That Milan model of 1989 and 1990 is one that coaches have often tried to emulate, but always seem to have one or two players who fall short of the required standard.

Ancelotti never quite got it right when he later became the Milan coach, and he is finding it just as difficult to match at Chelsea. "This team were born to attack," he enthused after his side battered Bolton with eight goals in two meetings. "We have full-backs who like to push forward and we have goals from everywhere." He was not wrong. Chelsea have netted a total of 58 since the 2-2 Community Shield draw with Manchester United in their first game of the season.

Everton, visitors to Stamford Bridge today, were the last English side to stop them scoring in April. A repeat seems unlikely. The Toffees are beset by injuries and Chelsea have more potency in the pairing of Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka since they were united, not divided, up front by Ancelotti. Drogba has 16 goals already, with his strike partner contributing six and setting up others. No problems there then. It is Chelsea's defence, though, that has left Ancelotti perplexed.

Seven goals have been conceded in the last three games, which featured two defeats and a draw for the worst run of results since he took over. Set pieces have exposed Petr Cech this season, when, not so long ago, he was one of the world's best goalkeepers. Ancelotti defended him last weekend after an error saw Carlos Tevez score Manchester City's winner with a free-kick. But the Italian has little choice until the transfer window when quality reinforcements could provide the ideal balance at the back and keep Chelsea at the Premier League summit in May.

Against struggling Everton, Cech will definitely need an eighth successive clean sheet at home to help avoid the arrival of a new adversary in January. akhan@thenational.ae Chelsea v Everton, 7pm, Showsports 1 & 2