BIRMINGHAM, England, Dec 27, 2009 (AFP) - Carlo Ancelotti is convinced that he can still mastermind a Premier League title in his first campaign at Chelsea despite seeing his troops win only once in seven games.
The Italian is refusing to press the panic button after a run that has cost his side the chance to open up a convincing lead over champions Manchester United, who had the chance to cut Chelsea's lead back to two points with victory over struggling Hull on Sunday.
Ancelotti received a major boost ahead of the clash with west London neighbours Fulham on Monday, after striking a deal with the Ivory Coast FA to keep Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou for one more match before the pair fly out to the African Nations Cup.
But his title hopefuls were distinctly average in a 0-0 draw at Birmingham on Saturday, with Ancelotti's excruciating afternoon plumbing further depths when Florent Malouda was sent off late on for a second bookable offence.
|Chelsea's Frank Lampard during the English Premier League football match between Birmingham City and Chelsea at St. Andrews, Birmingham, on December 26, 2009. AFP PHOTO|
The Italian however is still convinced the title is heading to Stamford Bridge.
"Our aim is to win the title and we are still top of the league at this time," he stressed.
"Today we are halfway through the season and top so it's good for us. We hope to stay there. We do a good job if we work hard and I think we can still win.
"We have to find other solutions, we have a very good squad. This is not a good result for us. It is not a good moment for us but I do not see a big problem.
"We are missing good players in Nicolas Anelka and Michael Essien but we still played good football.
"Birmingham and our next opponents Fulham are in good condition and these will be tough games. But I do not see a problem."
While Ancelotti could still consider transfer market moves, Birmingham manager Alex McLeish is mounting a compelling case to be named this season's Premier League manager of the year after a stunning campaign so far at St. Andrew's.
This was their tenth game unbeaten and they were rueing poor fortune of their own when Christian Benitez had a 'goal' harshly disallowed towards the end of the first half.
Birmingham needed England goalkeeper Joe Hart to preserve a deserved point, and McLeish believes the Manchester City youngster could still gatecrash Fabio Capello's World Cup squad.
He said: "I think Joe has come on a ton. He started the season, we spoke about one or two things but he's improved out of sight.
"He's a conscientious big guy, he studies everything and takes everything on the chin to improve from Dave Watson, our goalkeeping coach.
"Joe wants to get better and better, his form has been terrific. The England coaching staff think a lot of him and they will think even more of him after his performances for Birmingham."
Former Scotland boss McLeish added: "We're on a fantastic run, and if you'd said we'd go ten games unbeaten, winning a few games in there, I'd have bitten your hand off.
"The players deserve so much credit, we're running out of superlatives. It's frustrating for the guys on the bench but we can't change the team because of this fantastic run."