Can Spurs ruin Ancelotti's perfect start?

THE EARLY SIGNS from Stamford Bridge are that Roman Abramovich has finally found a worthy long-term successor to the charismatic but irritating 'Special One' , Jose Mourinho. Carlo Ancelotti, who left AC Milan for London...


Chelsea v Tottenham, Sunday September 20, 4pm

By Ben Pearce

THE EARLY SIGNS from Stamford Bridge are that Roman Abramovich has finally found a worthy long-term successor to the charismatic but irritating 'Special One', Jose Mourinho.

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Carlo Ancelotti, who left AC Milan for London during the summer, is Chelsea's fifth manager in two years, following Mourinho, Avram Grant, Luis Felipe Scolari and interim boss Guus Hiddink, who returned to the Russia national team at the end of last season.

Ancelotti could not have asked for a better start, as the Blues top the Premier League table with a perfect record of five wins from five. But then, the 50-year-old could not have asked for a kinder set of opening fixtures as he eases himself into his post - the Blues have faced Hull, Sunderland, Fulham, Burnley and Stoke.

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The new boss will argue that he can only beat the teams that are put in front of him, but critics would reply that he should perhaps have beaten them more convincingly, as Chelsea have stolen two of their five wins in the dying seconds.

Didier Drogba's attempted cross flukily dropped into the net on the opening day against Hull, while Florent Malouda slammed home a late winner against Stoke on Saturday. In another universe the Blues could easily be going into the weekend's London derby behind Spurs in the table.

And, before Ancelotti gets too carried away with the pacesetters' 100 per cent record, he would do well to swot up on his new club's recent history.

This time last year Chelsea had also flown out of the blocks, taking 10 points from their first four league games under Scolari, with only Spurs avoiding defeat in a 1-1 draw at the Bridge. All seemed to be going well, but the wheels then fell off and the Brazilian was sacked in January.

However, a similar collapse this time looks unlikely. The Blues' current tally of 12 league goals scored and three conceded demands respect, and suggests that the league leaders could well be the real deal.

Of course, they have always been resilient at the back in recent years, but Ancelotti already seems to have unlocked more of the offensive potential in the side with a variety of formations and systems.

Critics who claim that Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka cannot play together have seen the pair net six between them.

Meanwhile Michael Ballack looks more comfortable and involved, and has outscored Frank Lampard so far, and even Ashley Cole was on the scoresheet recently against Burnley.

Ham&High Sport verdict: The games are coming thick and fast for Chelsea's players as the European effect kicks in.

Having played FC Porto in the Champions League on Tuesday, following international duty and a physical trip to Stoke on Saturday, many of the Blues have now played three times in the last eight days.

Spurs' absence from Europe, meanwhile, has given them the whole week to prepare, which could give them a useful advantage.

This is Chelsea's first real test in the league and it could be one game too much as they seek to maintain their 100 per cent winning record, but few visitors take three points from the Bridge.

Much will depend on how Spurs react after Saturday's defeat against United, but a positive response should earn a point in a 1-1 draw.

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