Centre-forward Didier Drogba hailed Chelsea FC's place in the knockout stage of the UEFA Champions League, predicting it would also mean a welcome chance for coach Carlo Ancelotti to rotate his squad.
Drogba converted a penalty and made the first of Branislav Ivanović's two goals in a 4-1 win against FC Spartak Moskva which put the Group F leaders through with two matches to spare. The Russian team, beaten 2-0 by Chelsea two weeks earlier, kept them at bay in the first half but never recovered from Nicolas Anelka's 49th-minute opener. "It's a good thing we qualified today," Drogba said. "It wasn't easy because they played very well. It was important for us to win."
Ancelotti rested captain John Terry and Michael Essien for Wednesday's game, and Drogba expects more of the same in the UEFA Champions League as Chelsea also look to defend their lead in the Premier League. "It's important we can rotate the team, knowing we have big games coming," said the 32-year-old. "You could see already that the manager was resting some key players because we have a big game against Liverpool [on Sunday]."
Despite the comfortable finish, Drogba was not surprised by the initial opposition from Spartak. "They lost at home, they came here and didn't want to lose. They played better and it was difficult to find space. But after the first goal, with some good movement, there was more space so it was easier after that to break through."
Like the striker, Ivanović had also been braced for a tough start. "Spartak showed in the second half in Moscow that they can play very well and we were ready for that. I think we did a good job," the goalscoring defender said. "In the second half we just tried to stay on the same level because we knew Spartak could lose concentration."
Despite the reverse, Spartak remain second in the section, level on six points with Olympique de Marseille after the French club's 7-0 rout of MŠK Žilina. Spartak midfielder Aiden McGeady was sanguine about the defeat – and upbeat about the Moscow team's chances of progress. "First half we played well; second half, as soon as Chelsea scored the first goal we just collapsed," he said.
However, the former Celtic FC winger believes Spartak have the spirit to recover. "I think so. We've got two massive games now. It was always going to be difficult to take anything from Chelsea. We're just hoping that Chelsea can beat Marseille and obviously that we can do the business against MŠK Žilina."
Spartak defender Marek Suchý was on the same wavelength. "Now it will be between us and Marseille for second place," he said. "We will play Marseille at home and that will be a very important match. We hope we will be strong and believe we can take three points."
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.