Realist Ancelotti relishes win
Roman Abramovich may not have completed his ascent to the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro - but in Carlo Ancelotti he is convinced he has the man to lead Chelsea's march on Madrid.
And if Abramovich was given the choice between climbing a mountain in Tanzania or witnessing John Terry finally reach the highest point in European football, it is a fair bet Chelsea's owner would take a place on the Champions League winners' rostrum in The Bernabeu next May every time.
Ancelotti has proved he has the route map to successfully navigate the hazards of a tournament that has remained tantalisingly out of reach to Chelsea, despite Abramovich's mighty chequebook and the odd change of coach along the way.
And after a laboured win against Porto at a saturated Stamford Bridge, Ancelotti also demonstrated a firm grasp of the realities of Champions League combat.
The Champions League may offer many things but the element of surprise is very rarely one of them - at least not in the group stage.
And this is why Ancelotti, a splendidly laconic figure with a rapidly improving command of English, swept aside concerns about an unconvincing Chelsea performance and pointed a finger firmly in the direction of the victory. Never mind the quality feel the points.
Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti gives advice to his side during the match against Porto
Ancelotti knows that Chelsea's passing was erratic. Ancelotti knows that Chelsea conceded too many chances to a game, but unexceptional, Porto side. Ancelotti knows Chelsea spent too much time ignoring his constant touchline pleas for width and crosses.
But Ancelotti also knows Chelsea won and that is the only rule in town when the curtain rises on the Champions League. It was not an easy night on a skidpan surface soaked by a deluge that descended on west London and caused the postponement of QPR's meeting with Crystal Palace only a few miles away at Loftus Road.
Chelsea, as they have a habit of doing, got the job done. It was winning ugly but who cares? Not Ancelotti, that is for sure.
And this is why, when the last few clubs remain in the tournament, you would not be risking your shirt if you had a small wager that Chelsea will be among them. They will provide as strong a challenge to favourites Barcelona as any of the Premier League contingent.
Ancelotti summed it up when he said: "Sometimes you have to win without playing well. This is another important thing for a team because it is impossible to play well all the time. Sometimes you have to show you can win with other characteristics."
Chelsea showed they can win without Didier Drogba, suspended after his meltdown at the end of the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona last season.
It was a sanguine Drogba on the sidelines at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday, glad-handing with fans and wearing a leather jacket that made it look like he was about to roar off down Fulham Broadway on his Harley Davidson at the final whistle.
Drogba was missed. How could he not be in his current form? Focused and content under Ancelotti, he is the powder Chelsea will keep dry until his suspension is served. He will be pivotal at the sharp end of the Champions League.
Chelsea compensated in the shape of Nicolas Anelka, who is making Stamford Bridge look more and more like a natural home these days. He scored the winner with an accomplished finish at the second attempt in the 48th minute and has created such an impression he even drew the description "a great player" from the normally guarded Ancelotti.
Ancelotti will know, as the realist, that Chelsea present an entirely different proposition to every club in Europe when they have Drogba fit and with his eyes on the prize. Anelka alone is a threat - Anelka and Drogba paired together is something entirely different.
If this was a night for simply getting the win and getting home, there were still gems for Chelsea and Ancelotti to cherish - and Ashley Cole's performance was chief among them.
Cole, it would appear, is not a prime candidate to win popularity polls with fans outside Stamford Bridge - but he is at the peak of his powers and gave another exemplary display. He stood firm when Porto applied late pressure and threatened to snatch an unlikely point.
He remains unchallenged as England's finest left-back and when you watch him at close quarters it is easy to see why. No-one comes close and he will provide those two crucial elements, experience and quality, as Fabio Capello attempts to win the World Cup in South Africa next summer.
Ashley Cole tackles Porto's Mariano Gonzalez during Tuesday's clash
The other good news came in the shape of a man who did not even get on the pitch against Porto - although it was not for the want of trying.
Joe Cole, on the bench for the first time since January after a knee injury, received a hero's reception from the Stamford Bridge crowd when he warmed up, and warmed up, and warmed up.
It was a wonderful cameo to see Cole fit and well and going through his full range of physical jerks in an attempt to persuade Ancelotti to give him a piece of the action. He was out of luck - this was a night for containment when changes were made not the stage for Cole's attacking flourishes - but he is raring to go.
It will not be long before this popular and gifted member of both the Chelsea and England squad is back pressing his claims for club and country. And the day cannot come soon enough.
Ancelotti will surely find good use for the imagination and enthusiasm Cole offers and Capello's gaze will also focus on his comeback. Joe Cole at his best must be on the plane to South Africa.
Chelsea will have better nights in the Champions League but Ancelotti will be happy to wait for these. The first group game is about the win and nothing else. Ancelotti the realist knows the rules of the Champions League and Chelsea applied them to the letter.