LONDON, Feb 21, 2011 (AFP) - Carlo Ancelotti has backed his Chelsea flops to keep their season alive with a victory over FC Copenhagen in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Ancelotti's beleaguered team head to Denmark for the first leg of their last 16 tie with morale at a low ebb after Saturday's FA Cup exit against Everton.
Chelsea's Manager Carlo Ancelotti looks on during a press conference on the eve of the game against FC Copenhagen in the Champions League round of 16 Tuesday night at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen on February 21, 2011. AFP
Chelsea are a club in crisis in the aftermath of that fourth round replay defeat and Ancelotti's job will be in severe danger if Copenhagen eliminate the Blues from Europe.
Ancelotti has already conceded that the Premier League title is out of reach as Chelsea are 12 points behind leaders United and, with even a top four finish far from certain, the Italian knows it is essential his team show signs of life in the Champions League.
"It's not an easy moment, obviously, because we have to play very important games," Ancelotti said.
"Sometimes it's good to play tough games because you are more focused, more competitive, so we don't have to be afraid to play against Copenhagen. It could be a good motivation for us.
"We know Copenhagen very well. They are a good team, with fantastic organisation, a dynamic team, they use a lot of speed.
"It's important to know this to prepare well for the game, and to have courage to play."
Chelsea's woeful run since November is a major stain on Ancelotti's CV but the former AC Milan coach was hired by Blues owner Roman Abramovich because of his pedigree in Europe's elite club competition.
Chelsea had reached five semi-finals and one final in the Champions League during the Abramovich era before Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan eliminated the Blues at this stage last season.
Failure to retain the English title would surely be overlooked if Ancelotti could finally deliver the Champions League trophy Abramovich has craved ever since buying the club.
Ancelotti believes he should only be judged once Chelsea's European fate is decided and he said: "Until the end of the season, it's 90 days, three months. And so, we have to give an opinion at the end of the season.
"It could be, again, a very good season for us because we want to stay in the Champions League and obviously reach fourth place."
Copenhagen are regarded as one of the less formidable teams left in the competition, but the Danish champions are unbeaten at home in the Champions League, including a visit from Barcelona this season.
They also have a little inside knowledge of Chelsea, with former Blues winger Jesper Gronkjaer in their ranks.
Gronkjaer played a key role in Abramovich's arrival at Stamford Bridge as it was his goal against Liverpool on the final day of the 2002-03 season which secured Champions League football for Chelsea, making the club a more attractive investment for the Russian, who bought the Blues just months later.
"That goal is said to have been enormously important," Gronkjaer told the Sunday Times.
"We broke a long period in which Chelsea had not been in the Champions League. To score was a tremendous joy. It was among the most important matches I've played, though at the time we knew nothing about Abramovich.
The summer that Abramovich arrived was crazy. We were on a training camp in Malaysia. One day, Wayne Bridge arrived, a couple of days later Damien Duff showed up, while a third player went home. We were all thinking, 'Are we going to have a squad of 30 players?'
"Abramovich sat in the dressing room sometimes and other times he stood on the sidelines. I cannot say whether he actually has any football savvy but his presence meant that there was consistently a strong push to achieve."