Title race could go to wire, says Ancelotti

LONDON, April 21, 2011 (AFP) - Carlo Ancelotti believes the Premier League title race could go down to the final game of the season after Chelsea moved into second place with a 3-1 win over Birmingham.

AFP - Chelsea's Didier Drogba gestures watched by Salomon Kalou (L) against Birmingham City

Ancelotti's team sit above Arsenal on goal difference with the two London clubs trailing leaders Manchester United by six points with five games remaining.

Both of the challengers have still to face Sir Alex Ferguson's side - Chelsea must travel to Old Trafford on May 8 while Arsenal host the leaders on May 1 - handing them the chance to deny United points.

And while Ancelotti admits the odds remain stacked against his team, he insists there could be more twists and turns before the season reaches its climax.

"In football, I learned that everything can happen in the game right up to the final whistle," he said. "You can win the title in the last minute, and you can lose the title in the last minute.

"If we thought that one month ago we'd have a little chance to come back to fight for the title, I think that everyone could have said we were crazy.

"Now we are happy because we've reached second place. We await to see what happens in the next five games.

"We know United have to play against Arsenal. Everything is open. Obviously, I would like to be in United's position, six points ahead. That's a lot at this stage of the season."

First half goals from Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou put Chelsea in control on Wednesday before Malouda's second of the night secured victory.

A late Birmingham penalty from Sebastian Larsson came too late to affect the outcome at Stamford Bridge.

Didier Drogba was again preferred as the main striker ahead of Fernando Torres who was left on the bench and Ancelotti admitted the Ivorian's improved form was driving his side's late run.

Ancelotti denied Drogba had a point to prove following Torres' arrival and claims the striker's early season form suffered following a bout of malaria.

"He has a strong personality," Ancelotti said. "He knew that, with malaria, he didn't play his best. And so, I think that now he's fit and he's showing fantastic quality.

"In one season, problems like Didier had can happen. We couldn't do anything about this. Now we have to be happy to see him playing fantastic football, but forget the past."

Birmingham manager Alex McLeish believes his side now need one more win to be assured of Premier League survival.

"I would say we need another win," McLeish said. "We'll try and get as many points in the last five games as we can."

Larsson was involved in an argument with Craig Gardner, the regular penalty taker, before taking the spot-kick and McLeish admitted he was unimpressed after being told of the incident.

"I never noticed the penalty incident," he added. "It's not normally something I'd encourage.

"When a player has been successful in scoring the penalties, as Craig has done, he should keep it. I thought he'd agreed for Seb to take it. I never saw their exchange. But he did score with a fantastic strike.

"But Gardner, I'm sure, will have a chat about it over the next few days."

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