STOKE-ON-TRENT, United Kingdom, April 3, 2011 (AFP) - Carlo Ancelotti insists Chelsea will bounce back against Manchester United in the Champions League after his side's faint hopes of retaining the Premier League title all but vanished.
Mathematically, Chelsea can still catch leaders United but they have almost certainly left themselves too much to do after Saturday's 1-1 draw at Stoke.
|AFP - Chelsea's Spanish striker Fernando Torres looks on during the English Premier League football match between Stoke City and Chelsea on April 2, 2011.|
Chelsea are nine points behind Sir Alex Ferguson's side with eight games remaining.
But Ancelotti opted to focus on the positives rather than the negatives after Chelsea's slip at the Britannia Stadium.
If Chelsea are to salvage anything from a disappointing season, it will be in the Champions League - if they can get past a United side who don't know when they are beaten.
With such a big game looming, Ancelotti was happy to have escaped a physical encounter without any injuries ahead of Wednesday's quarter-final first leg at Stamford Bridge.
"I think it's very difficult (for Chelsea to win the league). We said that before the game," Ancelotti said.
"In the title race we have to close the gap, but in the Champions League we are at the same level as the other teams.
"We didn't pick up any injuries so we are in a good position to prepare for Wednesday for the game against Manchester United.
"It's a very important game obviously now. You have to be happy to be involved in this game because everyone is waiting for it.
"We want to do our best and show our best skills and ability. There are 180 minutes to play in this game and we hope to win."
Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba put himself in contention for a starting place against United by scoring Chelsea's equaliser after Jon Walters had put Stoke ahead.
Drogba has struggled to hold down a regular starting place since the arrival of Fernando Torres from Liverpool in January.
But Torres, who has yet to score since arriving at Stamford Bridge for 50 million pounds, was forced to spend an hour on the substitutes bench as Ancelotti opted to start with Drogba and Nicolas Anelka at the Britannia Stadium.
"Didier scored two goals for Ivory Coast last week and now he has scored here. So this period is a good moment for him," added Ancelotti.
"For 60 minues we played well but towards the end we lost a little bit. We are not disapponted. We have to be objective.
"We played some good football and played at our best. Everyone knows to play at Stoke is not easy. They are a good team and they have some good players and have a lot of power which they use very well."
Stoke were full value for their point and would have won but for some vital saves by Petr Cech.
The result means Tony Pulis's FA Cup semi-finalists are inching towards safety.
Stoke still need another win from their remaining seven games to secure their top-flight place next season. They have to face Arsenal and Manchester City among their remaining opponents but, on this evidence, they have nothing to fear.
"We created lots of opportunties in the end and I have to say that the players deserve a lot of credit for the way they performed in the second half," Pulis said.