The managers of Chelsea and Liverpool went through the motions of expressing disappointment at exiting the fourth round of the Carling League Cup.
|Drogba brings strength and power up front for Chelsea [GALLO/GETTY]
In reality, the English Premier League pacesetters removed an irritating distraction from their pursuit of the Premier League title.
The greatest benefit for both teams was the return of star strikers Didier Drogba (Chelsea) and Fernando Torres (Liverpool) making their first starts in more than a month.
Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari will hope Drogba, who scored his first goal of the season in Wednesday's Carling Cup game before the Blues were beaten by Burnley on penalties, can help improve Chelsea's goal difference, which is keeping the team above Liverpool at the top of the standings.
And ahead of Saturday's match at last-place West Bromwich Albion, Scolari refused to blame his players after a second-tier club denied him a League Cup quarterfinal place.
"The players are disappointed because they lost a competition," the Chelsea manager said.
"They wanted to win this game (against Burnley) but now it is time to work for Saturday's game.
"I am not angry with the players because they tried their best.
"If they make mistakes maybe it is because I have not given them good lessons.
"The players tried to do their best."
|Liverpool will be glad to have Torres back in the mix [GALLO/GETTY]
While Torres couldn't find the net in Liverpool's 4-2 Carling Cup loss at Spurs, manager Rafa Benitez is glad to see him back ahead of Saturday's match at Bolton.
"He needed to play some minutes and he is feeling positive now," Benitez said.
"He will train with us and will hopefully be ready for Saturday.
"We now turn our focus to Bolton and we will try to win the game to stay at the top of the league.
"You have to concentrate on the Premier League and Champions League, and then the FA Cup."
Defender Daniel Agger is wary of Bolton's threat after the Reds lost at White Hart Lane for the second time this month.
"We must play a lot better than how we performed against Tottenham," Agger said.
"Bolton are a physical and strong team so it will be a tough match for us, but we are focused on making improvements in every area.
"We definitely have to do better."
Chelsea and Liverpool are tied on 29 points, followed by Arsenal on 23, with Manchester United a further two points adrift.
Arsenal's victory over the Red Devils last weekend helped silence the unprecedented criticism being directed at manager Arsene Wenger following a defeat at newly promoted Stoke, who are at Manchester United on Saturday.
Wenger will hope the momentum continues on Saturday against Aston Villa as he
bids for his first league title since 2004.
Fulham will be wary of Tottenham's trip to Craven Cottage with Spurs manager Harry Redknapp having taken the team from last place to collect 10 points out of 12 in three weeks since replacing Juande Ramos.
Sunderland can quickly exact revenge for their League Cup elimination when they visit Blackburn, while Newcastle host Wigan.
Both Manchester City and Hull will be looking to snap three-match losing streaks when they meet on Sunday, when Everton hosts Middlesbrough.