By Simon Peach, Press Association Sport
Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti insists the only reason Fernando Torres started on the bench against FC Copenhagen on Wednesday night was to keep him fresh for Sunday’s Barclays Premier League clash at Manchester City.
The £50million striker has endured a frustrating time since joining the Blues in January, failing to find the net in any of his six appearances for the Londoners.
Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka were chosen ahead of the Spaniard as Chelsea eked out a goalless draw that saw them progress past Copenhagen 2-0 on aggregate and into the Champions League quarter-finals.
However, Ancelotti was keen to stress that Torres – like fellow substitutes Michael Essien and Florent Malouda – were only left out the starting line-up due to the importance of the upcoming match with City.
“The players not involved from the beginning tonight will play on Sunday,” he said. “I wanted to maintain the players fresh and with good motivation.
“If we want to achieve something, we’ll need all the players with good motivation.”
Torres came off the bench midway through the second half to replace Anelka.
Ancelotti added: “The only reason (he didn’t start) is that we will have these players – Essien, Malouda and Torres – fresh for City.”
Chelsea fans will be hoping for a much-improved performance when the side travel to Eastlands, having seen the Blues fail to net with any of their 25 shots against the Danish champions.
Ramires and Anelka were rare shining lights in the tie, although Ancelotti insists no performances last night changed his mind about who to start this weekend.
“No, absolutely not,” he responded when asked. “I’d already decided the selection to play against City.
“The atmosphere now is really good. After Copenhagen, everything was okay. The results were good, the performances… the injured players are coming back in good condition.
“Maybe on Friday we’ll have all the squad training. This is important for us to do 100% of our possibilities.
“If all these players give 100%, we have a lot of chances of arriving in the final stages.
“To maintain this we have to try to win every game. We have to pay attention.
“Sunday will be very important for us, for City – a very difficult game for both teams. We have to be ready to try to win.”
Wednesday night’s counterpart Stale Solbakken agrees with Ancelotti that the Blues have what it takes to secure Champions League glory at Wembley – even if it means beating Barcelona.
Having led Copenhagen into clashes with Barca and Chelsea in this year’s Champions League, Solbakken is in a unique position to judge both teams’ qualities.
And, while admitting Barca have superior skill, the Norwegian believes the Blues’ physical qualities could work to their advantage.
“Barcelona, I think, are a little bit stronger at this moment,” he said. “But Chelsea have that advantage of having that great physique in the team.
“They can out-power Barcelona in certain areas. That can be their advantage.
“They can compete at Camp Nou because they are strong, and they have strangled them here before, and were unlucky with [Andres] Iniesta’s goal.
“If they can handle them in Camp Nou… they have a better chance than Arsenal because of the physique of the team.”