I SUSPECT last weekend’s magnificent Manchester derby made uncomfortable viewing for Carlo Ancelotti and a few others down the Kings Road.
Not only did the most thrilling of seven_goal games underline the fact that United will still provide formidable opposition to Chelsea’s quest to win the title in their debut season under Ancelotti.
It also showed the Blues and their Italian boss that Manchester can now offer up TWO serious title challengers.
There is rarely any glory in defeat but City’s performance in their 4_3 loss was almost as triumphant as any victory.
All talk of it possibly taking years for them to mount an assault on the Premier League trophy was blown out of the water in 90 sorry 97 glorious minutes at Old Trafford as they announced that they are no longer pretenders but genuine contenders.
They certainly seem to have rattled United’s cage, a sure sign they have become serious threats.
Some might think while Manchester’s noisy neighbours continue their feud over the garden fence, the path would be left clear for Chelsea to sneak off with the silverware.
But I do not believe this is good news for the West Londoners.
That is because, when all is said and done, the biggest dangers to Chelsea’s title pursuit do not come from Manchester, Liverpool or North London.
In fact, they do not even come from these shores. That is because the biggest threats to the Blues’ season come from Angola and Zurich.
Chelsea have started with nine wins from nine in all competitions.
I have tipped them to win the title and I stand by that prediction.But I am worried how they will cope when the African Cup of Nations is staged in Angola in the New Year.
The scheduling of this tournament slap, bang in the middle of European league campaigns has always been a just cause for furious debate.
FIFA insist they want the bi-annual event moved to our summer months by 2016. But that will not help Ancelotti’s cause this season.
The Chelsea boss has reason to be more angry than most. He could be without Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, John Obi Mikel and Salomon Kalou for up to a month _ at one of the most crucial stages of the season.
And they are not just any old quartet either. All four have been regulars in Ancelotti’s squad and have played key roles in the club’s 100 per cent start.
Drogba, in particular, has been on fire, netting five times in six Premier League matches. Never one to hide his feelings of unhappiness, the Ivory Coast hitman now appears content, dare I say pleased, to be at Stamford Bridge.
His partnership with Nicolas Anelka is blossoming. Neither looks the same without the other alongside him.
But Anelka will have to get used to playing without his strike partner.
The loss of Drogba, Essien, Mikel and Kalou would be a huge blow to Chelsea in any season but this season even more so as the transfer ban imposed by FIFA means Ancelotti cannot even bring in replacements in January.That means Chelsea will have to make do with what they have got.
Ancelotti has said he is happy with his squad and the return of Joe Cole will only serve to strengthen it further.The midfielder’s comeback from injury against QPR was a major boost for club and country.
Fitness wise all appears well in the Chelsea camp but it will only take a few injuries for it to all fall apart.Suddenly, the four first_team players missing in January could become six or seven. No squad can cope with holes like that. Not even Chelsea’s.
Maintaining his team’s lofty position in the face of such adversity will be a real test for Ancelotti. That is why Chelsea could do without another club breathing down their neck in the title race.