Carlo Ancelotti has revealed his pride in managing a group of players “with really high spirit who respect and follow my ideas” – and believes Everton boast the qualities to extend their exceptional away form at Chelsea on Monday evening (6pm GMT).
Fifth-placed Everton are just one position and one point behind Thomas Tuchel’s team and have a game in hand on the west London outfit.
The Blues go into the contest on the back of a 1-0 victory at West Bromwich Albion and Everton are now unbeaten in nine top-flight matches on the road.
Ancelotti praised his players’ ability to implement his football principles and specific game plans, while explaining how the team’s resolve and determination have been key to their elevated position in the Premier League table.
“First of all, I am really happy to be the manager of this team and these players,” said Ancelotti.
“This is my team. Everton is my team.
“I feel these players follow me. They have a lot of respect for my idea.
“Of course, we would like to play better – I am not the only one who would like to play better, also the players want to play better.
“I think we have to improve the technical quality of the squad. But what we cannot improve is the spirit of this team, which is really, really high.
“I am really pleased to have this kind of quality in my team.”
Everton are set to lock horns with a Chelsea side buoyed by an impressive 1-0 victory at Liverpool on Thursday night.
Ancelotti’s team, meanwhile, have won their past three top-flight games without conceding a goal.
That run started with a 2-0 Merseyside derby win at Anfield and the Toffees boss outlined the positive knock-on effects of that memorable success.
“I think the victory against Liverpool was a key point because we came back from a defeat against Fulham at home,” he added.
“The win against Liverpool gave us more confidence and belief.
“We have a lot of confidence because, away from home, I think we have done a run that is unexpected for everyone.
“I think the key was we were more focused defensively away.
“Our results away were helped by a really good defence.
“And when you put this strength along with the quality we have in counter-attack and on set-pieces [then we can achieve good results].
“I hope to continue this against Chelsea. It would be fantastic to do this.
“To play against them, we have to be strong.
“We have 12 games until the end of the Premier League season. We have to be focused on the next game, which is Chelsea, but we also have to be focused on the other 11.”
Monday’s game will represent a meeting between two of the Premier League’s in-form sides, with Chelsea unbeaten in 10 matches in all competitions since Tuchel’s appointment in late January.
“Offensively, they play a little bit differently [since Tuchel’s arrival],” said Ancelotti, who won a Premier League and FA Cup double during a two-year spell as Chelsea manager between 2009-2011.
“Not too much, because the players are still the same. Now, they are really consistent.
“It will difficult, we know, because they are a fantastic team. But we can compete, I think.
“They have not lost any games with Tuchel and they are solid. This doesn’t mean that [previous manager] Frank Lampard didn’t do a good job. In my opinion, Lampard did a fantastic job when he was there.
“Tuchel is a young manager but he has already had experience in Germany, in Paris, and so he is a manager with a lot of knowledge. He is a young manager a lot of ambition.
“I am older, of course, but I still have strong, strong ambition!”