Upbeat Chelsea ready to seize the moment
London: Carlo Ancelotti`s bold assertion that Chelsea`s "bad moment" is behind them will be put to the test on Sunday when the champions host Premier League leaders Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.
The Italian`s description of six points from a possible 21 as a mere moment was a positive spin on a horrible slump that could have buried Chelsea`s hopes of retaining the title.
But it was hard to disagree with the sentiments of the Chelsea manager after a 1-1 draw at high-flying Tottenham Hotspur last weekend that felt more like a victory.
Lacking momentum in the opening 45 minutes at White Hart Lane, Chelsea finished the match like an express train and but for Didier Drogba`s stoppage time penalty miss it would be fair to say talk of their demise had been greatly exaggerated.
The passion, as captain John Terry said, was certainly back.
As it is they are three points behind United, who have played a game less, but with Drogba firing on all cylinders when he came on at Spurs and Frank Lampard back from injury, Ancelotti may have some good moments to look forward to.
Despite their poor run of form, they have not won in the league since November 10, Chelsea are still in the thick of the title race mainly because unbeaten United have leaked points in draws and Arsenal remain inconsistent.
With Manchester City, providing they are not knocked off beam by Carlos Tevez`s transfer request, and Tottenham within touching distance of the top, the Premier League title race has an intriguing look at the halfway stage looms.
United enter the Christmas period with most optimism, however. Despite an almost non-existent contribution from Wayne Rooney so far this season they are setting the pace and proving extremely difficult to beat.
Victory at Chelsea would be a huge statement of intent.
"It`s a massive game now," manager Alex Ferguson told United`s website (www.manutd.com). "That will go a long way to establishing the top of the league. It`s a big, big game for United."
By the time the game kicks off at Stamford Bridge Arsenal could be back on top of the table.
The Gunners, who hope to have Cesc Fabregas back in action this weekend, host Stoke City knowing victory would leapfrog them back above United for 24 hours at least.
At least manager Arsene Wenger will have no complaints about the lush Emirates Stadium turf after blaming the Old Trafford pitch for their scrappy defeat against United.
He will be more concerned with curing his side`s bad habit of losing at home in a stadium that was once a fortress.
West Bromwich Albion, Newcastle United and Tottenham have all collected three points from the Emirates this season and Wenger knows that they cannot afford many more slips.
Fourth-placed Manchester City face Everton on Monday although whether or not Tevez plays remains to be seen.
At least City proved in a 3-1 win at West Ham United that they can make do without their leading scorer -- a result that should fill Roberto Mancini`s side with confidence as they approach a run of four winnable matches.
For pure entertainment, however, Bloomfield Road may be the place to be on Saturday lunchtime when Blackpool host fifth-placed Tottenham.
Under Ian Holloway Blackpool have embellished the Premier League with some eye-catching football this season and their attacking philosophy has propelled them to 10th place when most thought they would be propping up the table by Christmas.
Likewise Tottenham have taken the Champions league by storm this season with their expansive style and are dark horses for a title push.