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Chelsea vs Marseille: Anelka hoping to have last laugh as Ancelotti rebuffs French claims

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Written by Joe Carroll

Nicolas Anelka will not be affected by tonight’s French opponents and will spearhead the Chelsea attack against Olimpique de Marseille.  That is the verdict of Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti as he welcomes the French champions to Stamford Bridge for the Champions League Group F game.

After the hysteria surrounding the recent inquest into several French internationals following the national team’s dismal showing at this year’s World Cup Finals, there was even more hype attempting to infiltrate the Chelsea camp this week.  The focus is on Anelka who was hit hard by the French Football Federation’s punishments, receiving an 18-game ban for being sent home from South Africa.

The Blues striker publicly made light of the ban, telling journalists that he was “dying with laughter” after hearing the verdict.  And with one of the best sides in French football coming to town tonight and the fact that the game is being shown live on French television, speculation had grown regarding whether the ‘patriotic’ Frenchman would be affected by the significance of this.

But his manager told the press yesterday that there is nothing to worry about regarding Anelka’s state-of-mind:

Nicolas is always quiet, revealed coach Ancelotti. I don’t think he will be afraid or scared because the game is on French television. He is in a fantastic moment and he will play for the team as he always does.

Anelka has been in fine form so far this season; the ex-Man City, Liverpool and Arsenal forward playing an integral part in Chelsea’s storming start to the 2010/11 campaign.  Scoring six goals in eight games in all competitions, the striker is believed to be enjoying his best football at Stamford Bridge and according to Ancelotti the sound of French jeers and protests is not about to end that. The Italian coach praised Anelka’s qualities whilst giving a hint as to what position he will start him:

He is able to play in every position up front. For his kind of skills he is perfect to play up front because he has speed, he has quality and he can support the players who come back from midfield. He is a fantastic striker for this reason. He is able to play in every position on the pitch.

Chelsea will be without the suspended Didier Drogba who will be a frustrated spectator for the visit of his old club.  The Ivorian is seeing out the last game of a two-match suspension in European competition, and will no doubt be disappointed not to get the chance to get one over on his previous employers.

But his absence could well open up the door for Anelka to move into the more orthodox striking role that Drogba occupies in the Chelsea starting XI.  Ignoring a traditional 4-4-2 formation, Chelsea have found success in a more attacking minded 4-3-3 set up, with Anelka providing a threat from the right side of the three furthest forward.  Tonight though, Drogba could be forced to watch Anelka spearhead this probing formation as he stakes a claim for the central striking position.

And Chelsea will need Anelka and whoever it is that starts tonight against a talented Marseille side to be lethal in attack.  The Blues after all have lost their last two games; a 4-3 shock Carling Cup reversal to Newcastle and a narrow 1-0 loss at Man City on Saturday.  Out of the two, it was perhaps the latter game that will cause Ancelotti concern ahead of tonight’s European encounter.

The team that lost out to Newcastle was made up of youth and back up players, and in the context of tonight’s game, Chelsea clearly have bigger fish to fry than the Carling Cup.  It was the manner of Chelsea’s defeat to City that will most upset Ancelotti and the fact that with so many first team players on show, they barely managed as much as a whimper after bowing out at Eastlands.

Ancelotti will therefore be expecting to see much more from his players tonight against a side desperate for points in the Group F.  Marseille suffered a shock of their own, losing 1-0 at home to Spartak Moscow in their opening game.  But with the recent return of John Terry to steady the ship, the coming of youth to the fore and the Italian’s knowledge of opposition manager Didier Deshamps, Ancelotti insists that the Blues are more than equipped to handle the French champions.

My players will know everything about the opponent but the most important thing is our play. Obviously we will know the skills of the opponent’s team but we must play our way. If we play our best, we will win.

Revealing to have some kind of upper hand ahead of tonight’s clash, Ancelotti will be hoping his predictions regarding a Frenchman under fire will come true.  If Anelka’s head is in the right place, he can light the way for a second Euro win of the group.  If it’s been turned by snipes from across the channel, then Chelsea could be in trouble, especially without the suspended Drogba. Let’s hope that Anelka will indeed have the last laugh at the expense of his own country’s fortunes.

Team News

Chelsea: Drogba will sit out through suspension tonight while midfielder Frank Lampard is still a few weeks from a return along with Yossi Benayoun who could be missing for even longer after suffering a calf injury against Newcastle.  Salomon Kalou should miss the game with a thigh problem, but Gael Kakuta should be fit after suffering from a minor back problem.

Marseille: Defender Souleymane Diawara should be fit to play after coming through their last game at Sochaux with no recurrence of the injury that has kept him out recently.

Possible Line Ups

Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovich, Terry, Alex, Cole, Mikel, Essien, Ramires, Malouda, Anelka, Strurridge

Marseille: Mandanda, Azpilicueta, Diawara, Heinze, Taiwo, Remy, Cheyrou, Gonzalez, Cisse, Ayew, Gignac

How important is a Chelsea win tonight?…Will the Blues miss Drogba?…Do you welcome the return of ex Chelsea midfielder Didier Deschamps?…please leave your comments below…

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