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Leeds vs. Norwich: All the 2s

The Toe Poke

Ox eyeing PL starts after EFL Cup brace

By ESPN Staff

Wilkins: Ancelotti's jovial style breeds success

Ray Wilkins believes Chelsea's success can be put down to Carlo Ancelotti's close, and surprisingly humorous, relationship with his players and backroom staff.

• Rebecca Lowe: Carlo's 'Indestructibles' in ominous form

With almost a third of the season gone, the Blues sit five points clear of last year's Premier League champions Manchester United.

Ancelotti's side underlined their title credentials with a 3-0 hammering of Arsenal on Sunday, and the Blues have also recorded wins over big four rivals Liverpool and Manchester United this season.

Chelsea have not won the title since 2006, a move which caused owner Roman Abramovich to entice Ancelotti to Stamford Bridge from AC Milan this summer.

Ancelotti often appears straight-faced and hesitant under the media spotlight but Wilkins has revealed the Italian has developed an impressive personal relationship with both players and staff at the club, some of which is based on humour.

"The way that he has treated the players on a personal level means he's got the utmost respect from each and every one of them,'' Wilkins said. "He's very knowledgeable on the game. He has dealt with the players in a fantastic fashion on a personal basis and I think we are seeing the rewards of that now.

"He tells jokes to the players. He's a football person and enjoys their company and obviously when things are going as well as they are at the moment then more jokes are told so we are having a good time.

"I've been extremely impressed from a personal point of view with Carlo,'' the former Milan midfielder added.

"As a bloke he's a really funny guy, he's always joke telling. It's a bit hard to translate unfortunately. I speak with him in Italian when he has a little bit of a struggle.''

Chelsea travel to Blackburn today looking to reach the last four of the Carling Cup, which the Blues have won twice in the last four years.

Ancelotti is likely to have Ashley Cole available and the 50-year-old is likely to field a near-full strength side.

The Blues are on a four-match winning streak but Wilkins admits his side are likely to lose matches before season ends.

He insists the team is strong enough to bounce back from defeat when it does happen, though.

"We are going great guns at the moment but in football anything can change so we just have to keep the concentration going and maintain the level of performance we have,'' Wilkins added.

"There are going to be games where we're not going to have everything go our way but it's about how we cope with that situation when it arises and up to now we have coped with it first class.

"We haven't been on top in every game we've played this season and for the first 20 minutes on Sunday it wasn't our game, but we had to dig in and these guys are willing to do that.''


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