LONDON: Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti says his team is driven by the prospect of making Champions League history after cruising into the last 16 with a 4-1 rout of Spartak Moscow.
Two goals from Branislav Ivanovic, a superb effort from Nicolas Anelka and a Didier Drogba penalty saw the English league leaders safely into the knockout rounds of the competition with two games still to play in Group F.
Afterwards, Ancelotti admitted Chelsea are determined to lay their Champions League ghost to rest this season after an agonizing defeat in the 2008 final was followed by their semi-final exit to Barcelona in 2009.
No team from London has ever won the Champions League, and the fact that next May’s final will be staged at Wembley opens up the possibility of a fairytale finale for Ancelotti’s men.
"I’m not English but I’m working for Chelsea and I have a particular feeling for this club," Ancelotti said. "When there is a final there is an extra motivation for everyone, not just for the English players. I hope.
"We are working to arrive to play the last game in Wembley."
While Drogba may have a point to prove following his ill-tempered exits from the tournament in 2008 and 2009, which were both followed by lengthy bans, Ancelotti believes the Ivorian’s hunger is matched by the whole squad.
Drogba responded brilliantly to being handed the captaincy in John Terry’s absence on Wednesday, setting up a goal for Ivanovic and winning the penalty which he duly scored from.
"Didier was the captain because he has a lot more presence compared to the other players," Ancelotti said.
"If John Terry or Frank Lampard is not there, he will be the captain. He has a fantastic motivation for this campaign of the Champions League—but every one of us has this motivation.
"There are a lot of reasons for this—there’s a final in London and no London team has ever won the Champions League."
Ancelotti was also purring with pleasure over the form of Nicolas Anelka, the moody French striker who was sent home in disgrace from France’s ill-fated World Cup campaign.
Anelka, who received a lengthy suspension following the World Cup fiasco which has effectively ended his international career, has been in superb form for Chelsea this season.
Yet Ancelotti does not believe the forward’s performances are the result of a determination to prove himself after the World Cup saga.
"I see the same Anelka. He’s always quiet, always calm, works very well. I think he is happy in this moment. He’s exactly the same as he was last year.
"The Anelka of today is at the same level he was when I arrived here.
Nothing changed," Ancelotti said.
He agreed however that the 31-year-old is in the best form of his career, a purple patch showcased by his exquisite goal on Wednesday, when he latched onto a Salomon Kalou pass to finish from the tightest of angles.
"I think he has experience, he maintains very good skill, very good ability, speed, I think now he’s in the best moment of his career," Ancelotti said.
For now though, Ancelotti can reflect on a text-book qualifying campaign that leaves his team needing only one point from their final two matches to go through as group winners.
"You have to be satisfied. There will be a long race to play the final. When you start the Champions League, the first aim is to win the group, when you do that, the next aim is to reach the final. The third aim is to win the final.
"And now we’re first place, so the next step is to reach the final. I don’t know if we are able to do this. We have the possibility. And we have motivation, strength, power—but sometimes you have to be lucky," he said.