CARLO ANCELOTTI defended Petr Cech and Frank Lampard ahead of tonight’s final Champions League group game against Apoel Nicosia.
Cech was blamed for allowing Carlos Tevez to score Manchester City’s winner from a 25-yard free-kick in the Barclays Premier League on Saturday.
Lampard was then guilty of his first penalty miss since September 2006 when Shay Given saved his 83rd-minute attempt.
That followed spot-kick blunders by Michael Ballack and Gael Kakuta in a penalty shoot-out defeat by Blackburn in the Carling Cup quarter-final last Wednesday.
Ancelotti declared he has no concerns about either player’s form though he is likely to start Hilario in goal ahead of Cech, while Lampard will start, according to club sources.
“This season, I think Cech did very well,” said Ancelotti. “I like him. He takes the responsibility and likes to come out and catch the ball.
“He could do better if you ask me about the free-kick on Saturday. I think the goalkeeper has to stay on his post and, if the player puts the ball over the wall and in, we have to congratulate him.
“Even a good goalkeeper can make a mistake sometimes but this season Petr has been doing very well.
“At our training ground, Lampard is the player who practices penalties more than any other player. It’s a psychological problem to shoot a penalty. When Lampard shoots a penalty, Cech tries to save it.
“I think that we did very well in the last games. In the last game against Manchester City we conceded a goal on the free-kick but set-pieces are different.
“We don’t have to mark people on a free-kick. We have to put up a wall. That’s not a problem like set-pieces. It was different to the last league game we lost against Aston Villa.
“That was two corner kicks, they scored twice. The situation has changed since that match. Set-pieces and free-kicks, they are different.”
Chelsea have already won the group and so there is a temptation for Ancelotti to rest some players against the Cypriots.
Ancelotti has doubts over captain John Terry (knee), Ballack and Ashley Cole. Cole is still suffering from an ankle problem while the Germany captain has a knee complaint.
Kakuta is almost certain to make his first start for the club while Ancelotti will also call upon youngsters Daniel Philliskirk and Nikki Ahamed.
“I want to put the best team out. But the most important thing is to monitor the players, to check whether they’re able to play,” said Ancelotti.
While Chelsea’s European position at the top of the group is already sealed, their lead at the summit of the Premier League has been cut to two points following defeat against City.
“I think that, until now, we did better than Manchester United,” he added. “We have two more points at the top of the list. We won the game against them.
“We know very well that United are a fantastic team. We have to race with them until the end of the season.”
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