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Ancelotti: We'll have to fight to retain our title

Chelsea's players begin their Premier League title defence today with a stark warning from manager Carlo Ancelotti that they will have to work much harder than last year if they are to hold on to their crown.

Chelsea welcome Roberto Di Matteo's West Brom to Stamford Bridge in this afternoon's late game as they look to build on the league and cup double which the Italian achieved in his first season at the helm.

This year's title race looks set to be one of the most open in years. Tottenham will be brimming with confidence after they broke the monopoly of the 'big four' by finishing fourth last season while Arsenal and Liverpool have both made good acquisitions this summer.

Manchester United easily beat the Blues in the Community Shield last week while their neighbours City look strong after their summer spending spree to which Mario Balotelli was added last night.

"It will be more difficult to win the title this year," said Ancelotti.

"It is not enough to be like last year; we will need to work harder.

"Manchester United will be our biggest rivals. They have quality, tradition and history but I know that we have to pay attention to the other teams. Arsenal bought a fantastic striker in (Marouane) Chamakh, Liverpool have a new manager, they could be a strong opponent, and we have to look at Manchester City."

The Blues' bid was boosted by the signing last night of Brazil midfielder Ramires from Benfica.

The 23-year-old has joined on a four-year contract having received a work permit and passed a medical.

The Blues are thought to have paid £18.2m for the energetic and versatile midfielder.

Ancelotti has predicted a bright future for the 23-year-old, who represented his country at the World Cup.

"He is a fantastic player," Ancelotti said. "He will be the future of the Brazil national team and I hope he will be the future of Chelsea."

Ancelotti was hit by the departure of defender Ricardo Carvalho to Real Madrid this week.

"Everyone was disappointed Carvalho left because Carvalho did very well for six years at the club," said Ancelotti. His desire was to leave this club to try a new experience."

Carvalho's departure does not mean that Ancelotti will be making a move to sign a replacement. "We do not need anyone else," he said.