Chelsea vs West Ham preview - Ancelotti ponders playing Torres

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Posted Saturday, April 23, 2011 by PA

Chelsea vs West Ham preview - Ancelotti ponders playing Torres

Carlo Ancelotti has revealed he would consider gambling Chelsea's entire season - and possibly his own future - on Fernando Torres in the Barclays Premier League game against West Ham.

Blues manager Ancelotti refused to rule out resting the red-hot Didier Drogba and recalling £50million flop Torres for the must-win game at Stamford Bridge.

That is despite seeing the same decision backfire spectacularly in last week's Champions League defeat at Manchester United, a result which left Ancelotti all but resigned to losing his job.

Opting for Drogba over Torres in the two games since then has given Chelsea a glimmer of hope of completing the greatest comeback in Premier League title history - something that would surely make owner Roman Abramovich think twice about sacking his manager.

The Blues realistically need to win all five of their remaining games to stand any chance of overhauling Manchester United's six-point lead.

They also need to score enough times to ensure they have a superior goal difference to United should that come into play.

So ditching Drogba for a player who has now gone 893 minutes without finding the net would be an almighty gamble by Ancelotti, but it is one he would be willing to take.

"Maybe I can use some rotation to maintain the players' freshness," Ancelotti said.

"It wouldn't be easy to leave Drogba out, but there's a chance we could leave him out on Saturday.

"We started with Torres against (Manchester) City. We won the game when Didier came on.

"It might be a good solution to give him the last 30 minutes of the game because he's fresh and fit."

Alex and Ramires are again set to be absent. The Brazilian duo have missed the last two matches with hamstring injuries but are expected to be fit for next weekend's game against Tottenham.

Branislav Ivanovic could return after sitting out Wednesday night's match against Birmingham with a muscle strain, while Ashley Cole is expected to shrug off the slight ankle knock that forced him off in midweek.

Meanwhile, manager Avram Grant insists West Ham deserve to stay in the Barclays Premier League and has challenged his side to take points off his former charges.

The Israeli came within a whisker of Champions League glory during his nine-month spell with the Blues, during which time they also finished as runners-up in the Premier League and Carling Cup.

Now Grant is having to deal with life at the other end of the table, with West Ham embroiled in a relegation scrap with just five games remaining.

After seemingly overcoming a turbulent start to the season, West Ham have dropped to 19th in the table and face a difficult set of fixtures as they look to secure their survival.

First up is a trip to Stamford Bridge and the Hammers boss believes his team have the potential to surprise.

"Chelsea are a good team," he said. "They know how to play football and even when they are not in top form they are a good team.

"And you don't just look at the players they play, their bench is also strong.

"They are a strong side but in football you need to believe all the time that you can do something and we believe that we can do it.

"The one thing that is important is that we need to give everything to stay in the league and I think we deserve to be here.

"Look over the season at the football we have played and the character we have shown in very, very difficult moments, and the decisions of the referees, including in the last game (a 2-1 home defeat by Aston Villa).

"We fought against everything so we deserve to stay up, but nobody will give this to us so we need to do it."

Grant will be missing several key players for the clash, with several notable absentees in midfield.

An Achilles complaint rules out newly-crowned Football Writers' Association Player of the Year Scott Parker, while Gary O'Neill faces an extended spell on the sidelines with ankle ligament damage.

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