Wednesday, September 28

Beware of wounded Villa, Ancelotti warns Chelsea


LONDON: Carlo Ancelotti has warned his Chelsea stars not to underestimate Aston Villa in today’s FA Cup semi-final at Wembley as the holders face the team they thrashed 7-1 last month.Ancelotti is concerned that his side’s demolition of Villa could lead to complacency creeping into their play against a wounded team who will be desperate to make amends for that humiliation.

Villa manager Martin O’Neill described the result as the most embarrassing of his career and he admitted to being shocked at how his players threw in the towel once Chelsea began to pile on the goals.

But Blues boss Ancelotti has no doubts O’Neill will use the painful memories of that defeat as a motivational tool to ensure his team are fired up for revenge.

“I’m sure it will be a different game. We will not think about that match,” Ancelotti said. “Aston Villa will play a different game, they will have a good direction, so we will play attention.

“It is a semi-final of an important championship and they will be doing their best to win. Saturday will be different.

“They have players with experience and strength and I have a good opinion about this team.

“Martin O’Neill is a good psychologist and a very good coach.”

Ancelotti’s hopes of defeating Villa again have been boosted after Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba was declared fit to start.

Drogba started on the bench for last weekend’s win at Manchester United, but came on to score the late goal that effectively sealed Chelsea’s most important win of the season.   He has an impressive record in Wembley showpiece matches after scoring the winner in the 2007 FA Cup final against United, striking twice in last season’s FA Cup semi-final win over Arsenal and then netting the equaliser in the final victory over Everton.

“Drogba will not stay on the bench on Saturday. He will play from the beginning,” Ancelotti confirmed.

“Didier did this very well against Manchester United. He was fresh when he came on the pitch and he did a fantastic job. He scored.”

Ancelotti believes success in the semi-final will keep Chelsea’s morale high as they bid to hold onto their two-point lead at the top of the Premier League.

“After the defeat against Inter, it became our aim to win the double. But we have to play six or seven games and every game will be difficult because it is the end of the season and every team has an aim,” he added.

But Villa will be keen to produce a better display than they managed on their last Wembley appearance back in February when they squandered an early lead to lose the League Cup final 2-1 to Manchester United.

O’Neill said: “The appetite for this game is even stronger having been to Wembley once this season. It is a great incentive for us.

“We lost the League Cup final and you could see by the second half performance in the FA Cup quarter-final at Reading that there was a renewed determination to get back there again.

“Of course, we face Chelsea. That won’t be easy, particularly after what happened a fortnight ago, but the players are ready to go.

“There is no question for a few days we were all pretty despondent after the Chelsea defeat, but the great thing is you get a chance quickly to put things right.”

Villa face a nervous wait to see if key defender Richard Dunne, who missed training on Thursday with a sore Achilles, is available to help subdue Drogba and company.

“Dunne has had a bit of a setback and he came out of training,” O’Neill said. “It is an injury we have to be nursing through. It has been troublesome for a while but he definitely will want to play.” — AFP