Blues 'will survive without Drogba'

LONDON - Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti is adamant his team will cope with the loss of Didier Drogba while the striker competes in the Africa Cup of Nations.

LONDON - Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti is adamant his team will cope with the loss of Didier Drogba while the striker competes in the Africa Cup of Nations.

The Ivory Coast international was given special permission to delay his flight to Angola, along with compatriot and Chelsea colleague Salomon Kalou, and the decision proved vital for his club as he spearheaded their 2-1 win over west London rivals Fulham on Monday.

Drogba headed in from Branislav Ivanovic's cross in the second half at Stamford Bridge to cancel out Zoltan Gera's fourth-minute opener for Fulham.

The goal took Drogba's tally to 19 for the season in all competitions, underlining his importance to the English Premier League leaders, who could be without the forward for the whole of January if Ivory Coast go all the way in Angola.

But Ancelotti maintains he will make do without Drogba as Chelsea, now five points clear of reigning champions Manchester United, look to retain their grip on top spot.

"Didier has scored 19 goals but without him, this year, we've done very well," Ancelotti said. "We won three games in the Champions League without him. We can do the same in the Premiership. In some matches we can change the system.

"We've played the diamond (formation) in every match, but we can use our wingers in some matches. Florent Malouda or Daniel Sturridge can play. It depends on the match."

Fulham defender Chris Smalling deflected the ball into his own net 15 minutes from time to seal Chelsea's win.

Victory ended a difficult month for Ancelotti, with Chelsea losing to Manchester City and managing mere draws with West Ham, Everton and Birmingham. But Ancelotti said Chelsea's last game of 2009 heralded a new dawn for the Blues. - Sapa-AFP

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