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No quitter

Posted: 16 Dec 2010 10:14 PM PST

Ancelotti insists on fulfilling Chelsea contract until 2012

Friday, December 17th, 2010 14:09:00

Football

ANCELOTTI: Not going anywhere

LONDON: Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti has no intention of quitting the Blues at the end of the season and insists he will stay at least until 2012.

The future of the under-pressure Italian has been the subject of fevered speculation, with reports linking him with a return to Italy with Roma.

But he declared he would honour his contract which expires in 2012, and hinted he may stay even longer.

"I'll stay in London at least until 2012," he told Corriere dello Sport.

Ancelotti also rubbished suggestions of a dressing-room rift at Stamford Bridge in the wake of the club's worst run in the Premier League for more than a decade.

"There are no problems in the dressing room, the relationships are good," he said.

"Everything depends on the results that haven't arrived because of too many misfortunes."

Ancelotti highlighted injury and suspension to the likes of Frank Lampard, John Terry, Didier Drogba, Michael Essien and Alex as being the key factor behind his first really tough spell since his appointment a year-and-a-half-ago.

Last month also saw assistant Ray Wilkins sacked having been Ancelotti's right-hand man during last season's historic double success.

The Premier League champions' form has dipped alarmingly since and they have not won for five matches, dropping from first to fourth.

They missed a stoppage-time penalty to beat Tottenham away last Sunday but Ancelotti feels their performance bodes well for this weekend's crunch clash with arch rivals Manchester United.

"In that (Spurs) game I realised that we are alive and we will start winning soon," he said.

Ancelotti will be boosted by the return of star midfielder Lampard, who looks set to start on Sunday after coming through a practice match unscathed yesterday.

Lampard scored in what was a 60-minute game at the club's Cobham training ground, which pitted two sides from the first-team squad against one another.

The 32-year-old made a surprise comeback after three-and-a-half months on the sidelines at Spurs playing the final 12 minutes at White Hart Lane.

The absence of Lampard has also forced Ancelotti to throw summer signing Ramires in at the deep end.

The Brazil midfielder struggled to make an impact since becoming Chelsea's only big-money buy during the last transfer window.

After an outstanding performance against Arsenal last October, the 23-year-old looked to have found his feet but he was unable to rediscover that form until impressing at Spurs.

That has given him the confidence to declare he is finally beginning to demonstrate why Chelsea paid Benfica £18.3 million for his services.

"I feel good, I feel better all the time and I think I am more adapted than I was before, and starting to show the football I played at my previous clubs," Ramires told his club's website.

"I am working harder and harder to show that I am more at home in England."

Ramires, who had never left his native Brazil until moving to Portugal last year, claims the language barrier has been a problem for him but revealed his determination to learn English as quickly as possible.

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‘Pep’ wants to avoid the French

Posted: 16 Dec 2010 10:09 PM PST

Friday, December 17th, 2010 14:05:00

BARCELONA: Manager Josep "Pep" Guardiola (above) would not like Barcelona to face either Marseille or Lyon in the Champions League round of 16.

The draw for the knockout stages will be held today and the Spanish champions will be a seeded team as they won their group.

Although Barca themselves are the team that the other 15 sides are eager to avoid, Guardiola admits he does not want the Blaugrana to come up against a French club in the first knock-out round.

"I don't want the French in Europe," he said.

"Marseille are a very strong team — animals, physically speaking — and there is a lot of pressure when you play there. They're very well prepared physically and technically. And we all know about Lyon."

The Catalans could face defending champions Inter Milan, 2006 finalists Arsenal as well as former champions AC Milan for a place in the quarterfinals.

Meanwhile, striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not lose any sleep over who Milan are paired with as they can beat anyone.

The Rossoneri are unseeded for the draw after finishing second in their group behind Real and this means they could face teams like Chelsea or Barca.

But that is not a problem for Ibrahimovic, whose confidence is growing all the time.

"Who would I prefer out of Guardiola's Barca or Carlo Ancelotti's Chelsea? I don't prefer anyone, we just have to be ready for everything," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"We just have to make sure we are good when it comes to the last 16. Every team is strong, but we don't fear anybody."

Such confidence goes hand in hand with the belief that Milan can win everything this season and match Inter's treble last term.

"I want to win everything. This is normal. We have three objectives — the Scudetto, Champions League and Coppa Italia," said the controversial Swede.

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