Ancelotti: Time to close the gap

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LONDON - Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti has claimed the mood at the London club is improving and the players are regaining confidence after a dismal run left them floundering on the fringes of the Premier League title race.

The Premier League champions have taken only 10 points from their last 11 league games - their worst run for almost 15 years - leading to comparisons with the dying days of former boss Luiz Felipe Scolari's tenure at Stamford Bridge in 2009 - but Ancelotti insists the team have turned a corner.

"I don't know what the feeling was under Scolari but the feeling here with the players is very good. We have the capacity to move on because we are very close and the players support me," the Italian said on Friday.

"The team lost some confidence in their play but I think we have the capacity to come back to play as well as we did last year," said Ancelotti ahead of Saturday's match against Blackburn Rovers at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea are nine points behind leaders Manchester United having played a game more than the Old Trafford side but Ancelotti believes last week's 7-0 thrashing of Ipswich Town in the FA Cup third round was a turning point.

"The result and performance against Ipswich were good," said the Italian. "The players showed more confidence and there was a different atmosphere.

"Ipswich was the FA Cup. The Premier League is a different story and now is the time to come back and try to close the gap. We cannot say everything is okay now because we know we need more examination. Tomorrow will be a very important exam."

Midfielder Frank Lampard, who has returned after injury, had told The Sun: "At the moment there's a bit of a feeling we're not sure what's going to happen when we go out there. The end of Scolari's reign was a bit like this. You lose the feeling of being able to win every week. Once you've had that and lose it, it's hard to get it back."

"This is not good news," Ancelotti joked when asked about his vice-captain's comments.

"We are very close. I support the players at this moment and the players support me. I think the only reason they are not happy sometimes is that we didn't get the right results. This is the only reason."

Opponents Blackburn have included striker Roque Santa Cruz in their squad after he returned to the club on Friday on loan from Manchester City until the end of the season.