x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Talk of Fernando Torres to Chelsea raises eyebrows

Even by the standards of his strangely exaggerated left eyebrow, Carlo Ancelotti seemed genuinely dismissive of the mere suggestion.

Chelsea, in practice ahead of the Champions League game against Spartak Moscow, have a strong line-up and are not looking to buy.
Chelsea, in practice ahead of the Champions League game against Spartak Moscow, have a strong line-up and are not looking to buy.

LONDON // Even by the standards of his strangely exaggerated left eyebrow, which tends to offer an insight into his true emotions, Carlo Ancelotti, the Chelsea manager, seemed genuinely dismissive of the mere suggestion.

When asked if he would urge the club to make a £50 million (Dh294m) bid for Liverpool's Fernando Torres in the January transfer window, that left eyebrow rose up as Ancelotti said: "I don't talk about a player like Torres. Look we have great strikers at this club already in [Didier] Drogba and [Nicolas] Anelka. Then there is [Salomon] Kalou. And we have very good young forwards like [Daniel] Sturridge and [Gael] Kakuta. No we won't be making bid for Torres in January. Nor any other player."

The look on his face - and the movement of that eyebrow - to those who have got to know Ancelotti's facial expressions, suggested he meant it.

Ahead of tonight's Champions League match against Spartak Moscow there remains a theory that Chelsea could be caught out this season because they lack depth of quality and experience in their squad.

Then again, that was an accusation last season when Chelsea won the English domestic double. But the departures of players such as Joe Cole, Michael Ballack, Ricardo Carvalho and Deco have raised the question again.

Yet a win tonight against Spartak will ensure Chelsea's qualification for the knockout stages and they have a five-point lead at the top of the Premier League. Maybe a lack of options has engendered a strong team spirit.

Ancelotti, though, is well aware a spate of injuries could undermine his team's hopes over a long campaign. That is why they have taken so long to nurse Frank Lampard back into action, why Florent Malouda was taken out of the team tonight at the first hint of an ankle problem.

"I believe we have a good enough squad to challenge for the Premier League and Champions League," Ancelotti said.

"That is why I don't intend to buy any players in January. Not one because, as it stands, the squad is good enough.

"But to make certain of that, we must always take precautions about players and give them the opportunity to recover. This is a big thing I did when I took charge of AC Milan. There were a number of players over 30 years old - as we have at Chelsea - and we had to take care of them; prevent them from suffering injuries.

"It was a case of dealing with players as individuals and monitoring them. Physical tests, psychological tests. Compiling the data. That way you can control the recovery of a player. You know if they are under stress, tired. If they don't sleep well. Physical data.

"We now have something similar here. It is all about the recovery of the player. Games and training can destroy the muscles and you have to load training accordingly."

It is the appliance of such science that Ancelotti hopes could yet see Chelsea have the squad to prevail on both European and domestic fronts. The eyebrow can be rather persuasive.

 

sports@thenational.ae

11.45pm, Aljazeera Sport 1 & +3