Chelsea Vs Sunderland, Sat 16 Jan 2010

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Carlo Ancelotti is hoping to capitalise on his luck when Chelsea entertain Sunderland at Stamford Bridge.

The Italian coach admits he is a "lucky man" after last weekend saw Manchester United and Arsenal both drop points in the race for the title.

United failed to overtake the Blues at the top of the table after drawing at Birmingham while Arsenal were held at the Emirates by Everton.

Ancelotti is hoping his luck does not run out against Steve Bruce's mid-table side as Chelsea look to maintain their one-point lead over United knowing they now have a game in hand on their rivals.

"I am a lucky man," admitted Ancelotti. "Maybe, for a coach, it's better to be lucky than a good manager.

"I think Manchester United and Arsenal drew difficult games and we maintained our position at the top of the table with a game in hand on Manchester United.

"This is good, but now we have to play and win. We can improve our position in the next few months. Sunderland will not be an easy game, but we can improve our position. We want to do that.

"Every team is dangerous. For the title, Arsenal are very close to us. But, if it's possible, we have to arrive in the game against Arsenal next month with more points than them. Then, we hope to beat them at home.

"Man City are doing very well and are a very dangerous team with a lot of quality, a lot of players with strong quality. We have to pay attention to them. I don't know if it's too early for them. If they do a good job, they can win the title. That's normal.

"Sunderland are a good team with a good coach. We did a fantastic match when we played them away against them.

"I think that, after that game, they improved and it'll be more difficult because they are more compact as a team.

"They put a lot of strong pressure in midfield and we'll have to play fast because we want to avoid this pressure on our midfielders."

Much has been made of Joe Cole's contract negotiations in the last week but Ancelotti is still convinced the England international will remain a Chelsea player.

His current deal expires at the end of the season but both club and player are continuing to their dialogue.

"It's the same situation as last week," he added. "They are talking with the club. I think that Joe is very quiet, very calm and is training very well."

Chelsea will again be without Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, Michael Essien and John Mikel Obi as all four are away on international duty in the African Nations Cup.

Steve Bruce has warned his players not to get carried away by their record against the Premier League's big four as they head for Chelsea.

The Black Cats have beaten both Liverpool and Arsenal at the Stadium of Light this season and were within seconds of a famous victory at Manchester United when Anton Ferdinand's last-gasp own goal rescued a 2-2 draw for Sir Alex Ferguson's men.

However, Bruce freely admits his new-look side was taught a lesson by the Blues when they left Wearside with a 3-1 victory on August 18.

He said: "On our day, we know we have got some very talented footballers who can produce a level. The big question mark over us is we haven't done it consistently enough.

"Against the big teams when there is no expectation, we have done extremely well. I hope that continues.

"We will have to be at our best. You know when you go to Chelsea that you will have to be at your best because if you are not, you know what the consequences are.

"We have to be at our best and hope we catch Chelsea not at their best."

Those wins over Liverpool and Arsenal contributed to a hugely impressive start to the season by the Black Cats, who at one point found themselves being talked of as possible European contenders.

However, a run of just one win in 11 league fixtures and none in the last seven has seen them slip to 11th place as injuries and suspensions have hit hard.

Bruce, who took his squad to Portugal this week for four days of warm weather training after falling foul of the wintry conditions at home, hopes to have Kenwyne Jones, Kieran Richardson and Bolo Zenden back from injury.

But he is still likely to be without the suspended Michael Turner, as well as Craig Gordon, Nyron Nosworthy, Anton Ferdinand, Andy Reid, Lee Cattermole and John Mensah, all of whom remain on the casualty list.


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