CARLO ANCELOTTI insists Ashley Cole will be fit for the World Cup finals this summer after confirming the defender underwent surgery on his broken ankle yesterday.
The Italian coach believes there is every chance that the England left-back can return to first-team action before the end of the season and play for his country in this summer’s finals in South Africa.
Cole fractured a bone in his ankle after a clash with United States striker Landon Donovan in Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat by Everton at Goodison Park on Wednesday night and Ancelotti admits the injury is a real blow.
“It’s bad news because Ashley is a very important player for us,” said Ancelotti. “But we have the opportunity to play Yury Zhirkov, another fantastic left-back, and I have confidence that he will do a very good job.
“He’s played very well in the last few games, and has played very well at left-back as well as in midfield. I’ve said I have a lot of confidence in him.
“He’s a very good player. We wanted to buy him in the summer also for this – he could be an alternative to Ashley. Now his moment has come and I think he will be fit to do his best.
“I’m disappointed because Ashley is a very important player for us, but it can happen that a player gets an injury. I hope he recovers quickly and comes back before the end of the season. That’s a realistic possibility. He will have surgery today and we hope to recuperate him quickly.
“In three months he will be ready to play, so for England he can play in the World Cup.”
Cole’s place against Cardiff in today’s cup clash will be taken by Zhirkov but the Italian is also resting a number first-team regulars.
Goalkeeper Petr Cech and Nicolas Anelka are the most notable absentees alongside captain John Terry – handed compassionate leave by Ancelotti.
Ancelotti insisted Chelsea were taking the clash with Cardiff seriously – but he was confident enough to reveal his starting XI.
“It’s a very important competition,” said Ancelotti. “We won it last year – I was not here – and we have a great opportunity to go forward in this competition.
“We know Cardiff will come to do their best. They have a good team and a lot of passion around them. We have to pay attention. We want to come back to win after the defeat against Everton.
“I said that the FA Cup is a fantastic opportunity for all the teams to play their best.
“They are followed with a lot of passion around them, and they have good quality, They have two fantastic strikers and score a lot of goals in the Championship. We have to pay attention.”
Cardiff manager Dave Jones is hoping for something of a miracle. The Stamford Bridge clash comes at the end of a difficult week in the club’s history in which they were given a 28-day stay of execution by the High Court after a second winding-up order over an unpaid tax bill was adjourned.
As hard as it may be with the threat of administration, Jones is trying to keep his and his players’ focus on footballing matters as the Bluebirds challenge for promotion from the Coca-Cola Championship and FA Cup glory. But that is where his own problems begin.
The importance of Cardiff’s financial health meant planned January signings were put on hold, and subsequently the fragility of his squad is being tested to the maximum.
Nevertheless, a resilient Jones said: “You’ve got to believe you can get something, otherwise why are we turning up?
“It’s going to be a daunting task, it’s going to be very difficult, we can’t even fill the bench.
“It’s no good going there in a defeatist mood, it’s a daunting task of course it is. Even if I had my full squad out then it’d still be a daunting task for us, but whoever plays has to go out there and do their stuff to the best of their ability.
“They’re full of internationals; the team is littered with world class players. So that’s something my players should be looking forward to.”
He added: “We’ve got to go there with a lot of pride and determination in winning. We have to be confident, we have to be brave and we have to work our socks off because they will make us work and if we’re not prepared to go run and chase and see whether something can happen then you’ll never know.
“Miracles do come true sometimes.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved