Chelsea make light of African players' absence

Anelka was the star in a magnificent seven-goal rout of Sunderland. (AFP)

Carlo Ancelotti believes Nicolas Anelka has shown he can cover for the loss of Didier Drogba following the striker's two-goal display in the 7-2 thrashing of Sunderland.

Drogba is on international duty with Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations, leaving Anelka as the club's senior striker during January.

Anelka's display against a hapless Sunderland suggested he is ready to rise to the challenge as Chelsea took their tally to 12 goals in two games without their four-strong contingent of African players.

Ancelotti said: "We played a lot of times without Didier and Nicolas did very well in the past. And also he did very well today. Nicolas is a fantastic striker, he is a top striker, and we are very happy to have him in our squad."

Midfielders Michael Essien and John Obi Mikel are in Angola along with Drogba's Ivory Coast teammate Salomon Kalou but Ancelotti is satisfied he has sufficient strength in his squad to compensate for their absence.

"I think that was maybe the best performance this season, we played very well until the end of the match," he said.

"We started the game very well. I'm very happy because it's an important time for us. Without the African players we maybe could have some problems. I always said I have a fantastic squad and today other players played very well. I think for us it is a good moment for us.

"I think these are important matches for us because I think we can also play without the African players.

The result against Sunderland will inevitably be seen as significant in the context of the Premier League title race but Ancelotti insisted his only concern is his own team's form and not that of his rivals.

"We don't want to send a message to the other teams," he added. "I think this performance for us is very good because it improves our motivation, and improves our determination to do better if possible."

Chelsea's victory was so comfortable, Ancelotti was able to withdraw Ashley Cole and John Terry at half-time. Cole picked up an ankle knock scoring his side's third goal, while Terry was rested ahead of a gruelling schedule of games.

"Maybe the best goal was Ashley's goal," said Ancelotti. "Fantastic movement, fantastic dribbling and a fantastic goal. Then he had a problem with his ankle so we took him off for precaution.

"John doesn't have a big problem. It was precaution because we didn't need him. It will be no problem for the next match."

 

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