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Mar 16, 2011

Ancelotti hints at dropping Torres

Carlo Ancelotti has hinted he might drop misfiring £50million striker Fernando Torres to the bench for Wednesday night's Champions League second leg against FC Copenhagen.

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Ancelotti has a rotation policy in place but he has stuck with his deadline-day signing since he arrived from Liverpool, starting Torres in all five matches since his move to Chelsea despite the Spanish World Cup-winner failing to score.

Chelsea have an important Premier League clash coming up on Sunday against Manchester City so choosing to save Torres against Copenhagen, over whom Chelsea have a 2-0 lead from the first leg in Denmark, could just as easily be seen as a positive appraisal of the striker's influence on Chelsea's all-round play as it could a sign of Ancelotti's patience running out.

Ahead of the Stamford Bridge clash, Ancelotti said: "Maybe Fernando will have a rest. I want to rotate my team and with everyone fit I will use all the players to preapre for this game and for Manchester City. Torres has played well for the team. The only problem is that he is a new player for us and he has to know our kind of play better."

Despite Chelsea's up-and-down season it would be a huge surprise if Copenhagen overturn Chelsea's advantage in London, making the Blues' passage through to the quarter-finals appear all but certain. The Champions League appears to be Chelsea's best hope of silverware even though the likes of Barcelona are waiting in the later stages.

Asked how Chelsea can beat the Spanish league leaders if they should meet in the coming months, Ancelotti suggested Chelsea's superior "strength and power'' could give them an edge over world football's pass masters.

"Barcelona now are the best team in Europe,'' said Ancelotti. "The performances of Barcelona at this moment are fantastic, but every game is a different story. If we have to play them, we have to try to find a solution to beat them.''

Ancelotti suggested "strength and power'' were the way to combat Barca's peerless passing game. The tactic certainly worked for European Cup holders Inter Milan last season, while Chelsea were desperately unlucky not to topple Barca a year earlier. Arsenal tried to fight fire with fire in their last-16 clash with the Spanish champions and were brutally exposed, just as they were last term. Ancelotti was at pains to point out a meeting with Pep Guardiola's team was not a foregone conclusion, insisting his side still had plenty of work to do on Wednesday night.

"We have to pay attention,'' he said. "Copenhagen are a good team with good organisation.''

That was certainly not the case three weeks ago, when the Danish champions looked every inch a side playing their first competitive match since a three-month winter break. Yet, despite the quality of the opposition, the win had a galvanising effect on a Chelsea team whose season was on the brink of unravelling but who have since beaten both Manchester United and Blackpool.

Admitting the Copenhagen victory was the "turning point'' of his side's stuttering season, Ancelotti said: "Copenhagen was an important match to move on. It gave us confidence, optimism, not just the result.''

Wednesday's game promises to be an emotional one for Copenhagen winger Jesper Gronkjaer, who will play at Stamford Bridge for the first time since leaving Chelsea in 2004. The 33-year-old scored on his last two appearances at the stadium but was not banking on making it a hat-trick.

He said: "It's going to be funny. I just had a short walk around the stadium now and saw a few people I've seen before. It's going to be a fantastic atmosphere tomorrow. It's going to be a walk down memory lane. I've got great memories here but now I'm playing for FC Copenhagen and I want to win here and we're going to give it a good go tomorrow. We know we didn't play our best game in Copenhagen but we want to keep the dream alive.''

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