Nicolas Anelka in 'form of his life'
Published 04/11/2010 | 00:00
Carlo Ancelotti said Nicolas Anelka is in the best form of his career after Chelsea ensured qualification for the knockout stage of the Champions League with a 4-1 win over Spartak Moscow at Stamford Bridge.
Goals from Anelka, his fifth in Europe this season, a brace from Branislav Ivanovic and a penalty from Didier Drogba crushed the Russians, who scored a late consolation goal through Nikita Bazhenov.
Only a shock defeat to Group F whipping boys MSK Zilina at home in a fortnight could stop them finishing top.
After a disappointing goalless first half, Chelsea increased the tempo and within four minutes of the re-start Anelka had put the Blues ahead.
It was his 10th of the season in all competitions and Blues boss Ancelotti was quick to hail the former France international by proclaiming the 31-year-old was in the best form of his long career.
"All the players played a good game," said Ancelotti. "We had more difficulty in the first half, but we played better in the second.
"Anelka was the key to opening up the game. He scored a fantastic goal - the most important this evening.
"I think he is happy at this moment. He's the same compared to last year and the same Anelka I found when I came here, nothing has changed.
"He has experience. He maintains very good skill, ability, and speed. Overall he is in the best moment of his career."
Ancelotti insists Chelsea will end up Champions League winners if they succeed in achieving his 'three steps to heaven'.
The victory over the Russians, their fourth straight success in Europe this season, took them close to achieving stage one of Ancelotti's treble top.
"There will be a long race getting to the final," added Ancelotti.
"When you reach the first aim, which is to win the group, the next aim is to reach the final, and then to win that.
"I don't know if we can do this, but we have a possibility. We have the motivation to do this, but sometimes you have to be lucky also.
"We are working to play the last game at Wembley. In the final.
"It is important to start well and it's still important to finish in first place in this group.
"But I think that the decisive time for the Champions League is in February and March. Then we have to be ready. Now we're in a good moment and we're hoping to avoid injury and keep people fit.
"Every one of us has motivation. There are a lot of things to think about - a final in London and the fact that no London team has won the Champions League. I think that helps to improve the motivation.
"It is the same for all of us. I'm not English. I'm working for Chelsea and have a particular feeling for this club. If there is a final, it's an extra motivation for everyone, not just the English players."
Spartak Moscow boss Valery Karpin still believes his side can qualify for the knockout phase as runners-up to Chelsea.
"Nothing has changed in terms of our chances of getting out of the group," said Karpin. "If we win our last two games, we will qualify. When you're losing 4-1, there's not much joy in having scored at Stamford Bridge. It would only have been significant if the score had been 0-0 at the time.
"The main positive was us gaining experience. We have a young team and they've played one of the best teams in Europe, maybe one of the best in the world.
"These players can look up to the best players in the world and see how technical they are, how well they can play, and benchmark themselves against them."