Didier Drogba is set to return to Chelsea's starting line-up at Blackpool tonight with Carlo Ancelotti warning his players that they will need to demonstrate "more focus" at Bloomfield Road than they did in beating Manchester United last week if they are to maintain their pursuit of a Champions League place.
Drogba, a substitute in Chelsea's victories against FC Copenhagen and United, is expected to start alongside Fernando Torres, most likely at the expense of Nicolas Anelka, who will drop to the bench, as the Ivorian seeks his first goal since late January.
David Luiz, the £21.6m signing from Benfica who has impressed at both ends since his move to Stamford Bridge, will be assessed again today after missing training last week with a tight hamstring, and could yet be replaced by José Bosingwa.
Ancelotti has been heartened by his side's second-half revival against United but is wary of the threat posed by Ian Holloway's team despite Blackpool's recent toils in winning only once in eight Premier League fixtures.
"It's the wrong way to prepare by thinking it will be easier against Blackpool than it was against United," said the Chelsea manager. "We have to be prepared and aware. We have to be more in focus against them than against United. It's easy to stay focused against United because there's so much attention on the game and a lot of pressure. There is less pressure against Blackpool, so my aim is to maintain their focus.
"But there is a different atmosphere here now. A lot of times in the past I've said the atmosphere was good but I only wanted to say that [publicly]. Sometimes it wasn't good really because the players were having more difficulties training and had less confidence. Now the confidence has improved with that result against United and the atmosphere is good – they are training well with confidence and ability – because of that one win. If you beat a team like United, it shows you can compete with the stronger teams.
"That second half against them was so important for our season. We'd had some good moments ahead of the Liverpool game last month and everyone had confidence going into that match but we ended up losing it and our confidence went down. I felt the same way after the Copenhagen fixture – people were coming back confident, so to maintain that against United was important. If we hadn't won that game, it could have been a problem for the future."
Roman Abramovich has visited the training ground at Cobham since and met Ancelotti on Friday, when their discussions touched on the squad's disciplinary problems, highlighted after Ashley Cole accidentally shot a student on work placement at the club with an air rifle. The Russian, too, was encouraged by the win against the leaders – "He was happy with the performance against United, so it was a good time [for him to have come]," said the Italian – and the manager now has eye-catching options to fling on from the bench.
"We have more power now," said Ancelotti. "Against United I had a fantastic bench and obviously Didier, [Yuri] Zhirkov and Bosingwa gave fantastic support to the team when they went on. They changed the game. I can do that now, as I have more options. This is the team of our owner. I am proud to manage this team, and I want to do my best for him and for them. I thought this the first day I was here and I hope to think the same on the last day I'm here."
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010