LONDON (AFP) – Carlo Ancelotti insists his Chelsea remain bystanders in the title race but their chances of making a late charge will strengthen if they can secure victory over Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Similarly, City's hopes of remaining on the coat-tails of leading two Manchester United and Arsenal will be maintained should they complete a second successive double over Ancelotti's side.
Chelsea go into the clash knowing victory will allow them to leap-frog third-placed City and reinforce the upbeat mood in west London that has accompanied the recent upturn in form.
|Chelsea's John Terry (R) celebrates after scoring during their English Premier League match between Blackpool and Chelsea at Bloomfield Road in Blackpool, north-west England, on March 7. AFP|
The midweek Champions League aggregate victory over FC Copenhagen set up a quarter-final meeting with United and put more distance between the Blues and their mid-season slump.
Ancelotti, though, has played down suggestions his side could now be on course to retain the title they won last season and, like City manager Roberto Mancini, is more concerned with securing a top four finish.
"We have the same aim," said the Chelsea manager.
"The first thing is to finish in the top four.
"At this moment, five teams are involved in this race and one will miss out. It will be important for every team to reach this."
He added: "The title is not in our hands. If United or Arsenal won all their games, we're not involved. Obviously, we hope that they lose some points, but we can't think about this. We have to do our job, and our job at this moment is to beat City."
Ancelotti will recall Fernando Torres after the striker was rested against Copenhagen along with centre back David Luiz who was rested for that tie.
Torres' continuing problems in front of goal - he has failed to score in six appearances for his new club - have been one of the few disappointments in the last month but Ancelotti insists he is unconcerned.
"He needs to score above all for himself, not the team," said the manager.
"The team is doing well. I understand very well that, for the strikers, it's very important to score.
"But I ask my striker not just to score but to be involved for the team and work hard. He's doing this. I've had this before a lot of times. I kept Hernan Crespo for six months without him scoring.
"I don't ask them to score. I never said to them: ?You have to score.' The team has to score."
City have won the last three meetings between the sides but they must restore their belief after exiting the Europa League at the hands of Dinamo Kiev three days before this game.
Mancini's side failed to recover after the first half dismissal of Mario Balotelli, the Italian striker who is now expected to be dropped for the trip to Stamford Bridge.
"I don't know if I could rely on him (Balotelli) for a game like this," said City manager Mancini.
"I'm going to chat with him in the next couple of days and we'll see.
"Mario is young, he needs to think about what he wants to do because he has everything he needs to become a fantastic striker. But he lost the tie for us this time.
"I hope every day he will change his behaviour. I can't understand his bad behaviour sometimes. Sometimes I can, but other times I can't. I hope he can change."
Adam Johnson is poised to make his first league start after a two-month lay-off while Nigel de Jong faces a late test on an ankle problem.
The Holland midfielder admits this is a vital game for Mancini's side.
"It's a big challenge for us. Every game from now is big for us," he said.
"The end of the season is coming and everyone is going to be trying to get those places in the top four.
"So Sunday especially is going to be a big match. We are rivals for that third spot and it will be a big test.
"But we shown again this season that we can do it against Chelsea so we just have to go there with 100 per cent confidence.
"If we do that then there's not much that can stop us."