Ancelotti on learning curve at Chelsea

LONDON: Carlo Ancelotti admits he has learned a lot about English football during the first few days of the Premier League campaign.

While Ancelotti's Chelsea side have claimed two victories - a fortunate opening day win against Hull City and a more convincing triumph at Sunderland - two of their main title rivals have stumbled.

The most spectacular of those falls was Manchester United's shock defeat to Burnley and with only two games gone, Chelsea already enjoy a three-point advantage over United and Liverpool.

The Chelsea manager is wise enough to know that a three-point lead counts for nothing at this stage of the season, but will count for an awful lot nine months down the line.

And with a challenging trip to near neighbours Fulham next up on Sunday, Ancelotti acknowledges that it is vitally important his side maintain their steady start.

"It's normal that you see different results at the start of the season because some teams are not in the best condition," said the former AC Milan coach.

"So maybe unbelievable results can happen and Burnley's result against Manchester United was an unbelievable result.

"I've learned already in my first matches that every game is difficult. You feel the push of the fans away from home and every game has a very good atmosphere.

"The season is very, very long and what's happened to other teams can happen to us. But I'm not thinking of others' problems, I'm thinking of our own work. And to be top of the table is not bad.

"It's better to be trying to stay at the top of the table, and not be further down trying to get up."

Ancelotti has quickly shown he intends to rotate his squad around and has already employed different formations against Hull and Sunderland.

Having come across Roy Hodgson when the Fulham manager was working in Italy in charge at Inter Milan over a decade ago, the Chelsea coach expects to face well-organised opponents capable of ending the Blues' winning start.

"In Italy Roy has a very good reputation. I know him because when he was coach of Switzerland I went to watch him coach for a week. I know Fulham will present a more difficult test than Sunderland but we are playing well at the moment and we want to continue in that way.

"Ancelotti will be without central defender Alex who has a groin problem while Russian midfielder Yuri Zhirkov is still struggling with a knee problem.

Hodgson's injury problems are more serious with striker Andrew Johnson having damaged his shoulder in the 3-1 Europa League victory of Amkar Perm of Russia.

Hodgson could at least draw comfort from the fact that Johnson's injury is not as bad as first feared, and now faces a decision over who should partner Bobby Zamora up front.

Norway international Erik Nevland could start if he proves his fitness although US star Clint Dempsey could also be pushed forward from his usual position on the flanks.

Hodgson will hand a first league start to Damien Duff who will have the added incentive of facing his former club.

Duff had three seasons at Stamford Bridge, helping the club to win two titles before switching to Newcastle in 2006.