Carlo Ancelotti would face greater challenge than before should he become Chelsea manager

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With Jose Mourinho's job on the line at Stamford Bridge, following Chelsea's abysmal run of form this season, Carlo Ancelotti has repeatedly been linked with a return to his former employers.

Reports as per the Mirror suggest the 56-year-old is interested in a return to England and would consider an offer from the Blues, so long as it's a permanent deal.

It was suggested the west London side would offer the Italian an interim role until the summer, however, his friends have said he would only consider a long-term contract.

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Mourinho's future, though, has yet to be decided - although Tuesday night's penalty shoot-out defeat to Stoke City in the League Cup would not have helped his cause.

Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola has also been linked with the Chelsea job, but his future is similarly in the balance - he could yet sign a new deal with the Bavarians.

Ancelotti appears to be the outright favourite, then, given his immediate availability, and could prove a cost-effective and decent alternative.

There is no doubting Ancelotti's quality as a manager, having had spells with Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid since last leaving Chelsea. However, times have changed in the Premier League since he was last in England.

When Ancelotti won the title with the Blues back in the 2009/10 season, Tottenham finished fourth in the league, three points above Manchester City, while Aston Villa finished just three points behind and a point above Liverpool, in sixth.

Chelsea's Italian manager Carlo Ancelott

Since then, the Citizens have finished consistently in the top three, Southampton have gone from strength to strength since winning promotion from the Championship and Liverpool finally look like challenging for the top four again.

As a result, it is no longer such a foregone conclusion prior to each season as to who will claim an illustrious Champions League place. Eight teams in the Premier League are capable of staking a claim for the top four.

It is also no longer just about the teams competing at the top, but the toughness of teams elsewhere in the table. Crystal Palace have proven a difficult side to play against under Alan Pardew, whilst Leicester City are no longer pushovers and Slaven Bilic is fast turning West Ham into a side that can compete for a European spot.

West Ham United v Chelsea - Premier League

So, for Ancelotti, who won the Premier League during his two seasons with the Blues, it will be a bigger ask of him than what it was previously. The question is, therefore: will Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich give him the time needed to turn around the club's fortunes?

Despite having managed some of the biggest clubs in the world, including Juventus, AC Milan, PSG and Real, the Italian has won just two league titles away from England.

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In a relatively uncompetitive league like La Liga, he would have been expected to win at least one title in his two years at the Bernabeu. Instead, he finished third, behind Atletico Madrid and Barcelona, in 2014, before being pipped to the title by their Catalan rivals last season.

Despite his record, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the former Real boss back in England should Mourinho face the chop. Abramovich reportedly regretted his decision to sack Ancelotti so soon last time round, though it remains an interesting thought as to whether the Italian will be afforded the time to return Chelsea to winning ways.

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