x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Chelsea duo shoot for double

Ashley Cole and Nicolas Anelka can claim a unique achievement of winning the league and FA Cup double with two different teams should Chelsea succeed today.

Ashley Cole, left, and  Nicolas Anelka celebrate a goal in the Premier League.
Ashley Cole, left, and Nicolas Anelka celebrate a goal in the Premier League.

To be part of a side that achieves the league and FA Cup double is a dream for any player. Since lifting the Premier League title last weekend, it has been the only thing on the mind of those at Chelsea. To do it twice, and with different clubs, is something unique. Today, Nicolas Anelka and Ashley Cole will proudly be the first to attain that accolade if they succeed in helping Chelsea overcome Portsmouth in the FA Cup final and become the seventh team in history to be double winners.

It was way back in 1998 when Anelka first achieved the milestone, with Arsenal. "It was unexpected with Arsenal," the striker recalled on the club's website. "We were a long way behind Manchester United in the league, but in football you never know and you have to fight and believe until the end. "That's what we did and we had a lot of wins at the end of the season which gave us confidence to win the title - and then the double.

"Here at Chelsea we have always had belief and it is good to be in a squad when you know you can win titles. "So I look forward to playing this game at Wembley and hope we can win again. "I will be proud to have achieved something in football, and very happy to say in the future I was able to win things with Chelsea at this time. This [one] is even better because it is something special." Cole tasted similar joy with Arsenal when they beat Chelsea in the 2002 final and went on to win the Premier League title. Cole won two more FA Cups with Arsenal, in 2003 and 2005, and another two with Chelsea, in 2007 and last year. which means a record sixth FA Cup winners' medal could be his today.

Carlo Ancelotti, Chelsea's Italian coach, needed to watch a video of Chelsea's triumph last season to appreciate the prestige of the competition. Landmarks like this for Cole tell its own story. Ancelotti duly gave the competition the respect it deserved and the reward will be huge. Not since Kenny Dalglish, with Liverpool in 1986, has a manager won the double in his first managerial season. But despite Chelsea being overwhelming favourites, Ancelotti, ever the pragmatist, will not accept the plaudits just yet.

He has demanded more of the professionalism and ruthlessness that produced an 8-0 final day win over Wigan to secure the championship. "On paper we have more quality, but we have to play," Ancelotti told reporters. "My players know very well how they have to play this game, how to prepare for this game. "It is a great opportunity to win the double. It is the first time for this club and we can do this."

Against all odds, Portsmouth have reached this stage and their run bears hallmarks of Wimbledon's success in 1988. Decried for their physical and direct style and dismissed as no-hopers, they denied Liverpool another double. The result was one of the game's biggest shocks. Avram Grant, the Portsmouth coach, would love to do the same thing today, and said his relegated side will be fearless. But he accepts Portsmouth cannot rely on fate alone. "People talk about destiny, yet that means you don't have to do anything because it will happen anyway," he told a press conference.

"In football, 10 per cent happens without a reason, but 90 per cent is down to hard work, process and a way of thinking. I believe that against Chelsea, first we need to do our job and then hope for something I cannot control." akhan@thenational.ae