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CARLO Ancelotti has insisted that Chelsea was not out of the Barclays Premier League title race despite watching it throw away a crucial two points in a breathless 3-3 draw against Aston Villa.

But the Blues boss admitted that the result, which left his side outside the top four, meant it must beat Manchester United in March to stand any hope of retaining the championship. Failure to see off Villa left Chelsea marooned in fifth place, six points behind United, having played a game more.

While a slip-up from its unbeaten arch-rival is not impossible, it is highly unlikely that Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham will all press the self-destruct button. Ancelotti said after last Wednesday's ugly win over Bolton that Chelsea's title defence would have been over had it failed to end its worst run of league results for 11 years – but he was defiant after the draw with Villa.

'It's not over because we are improving and I think that we can say something again this season,' he said, pointing out that United had to win is game in hand to go nine points clear.

'First, they have to win. Second, I think that the gap is not a light gap at this moment. But everything is open again. Obviously, we have to beat them here, and we can say something again about the title.'

The result put Ancelotti's position under fresh scrutiny after Wednesday night's 1-0 win over Bolton had eased the pressure on the Italian. At least Chelsea avoided defeat, a prospect that looked highly likely six minutes from time against a Villa side that had largely outplayed it.