CECH: RISING THROUGH THE RANKS

In the past week, Petr Cech has surpassed the number of Chelsea appearances achieved by two club legends.

At Wembley on Sunday, the goalkeeper played his 422nd game, one more than Steve Clarke, and two more than Kerry Dixon, both household names for any Chelsea fan, and heroes to a generation of Blues support.

In nine seasons at Stamford Bridge, Cech, now our seventh all-time appearance maker, has already written his name in folklore by breaking the Premier League record for not conceding a goal, 1,024 minutes, or more than 11 games, quickly followed up by lifting our first league title in half a century in 2005. More domestic success followed before last season, he saved three penalties in Munich as we became the first London club to win the Champions League.

'I am pleased I am getting numbers under the belt which puts me among those fantastic players,' he said. 'When I got past Gianfranco Zola as the top foreign appearance maker, one of the best players ever at the club, it was a great achievement, and now I have over 400 and am climbing the ranking.

'I am pleased to have played so many, because it shows I have been the number one choice and have kept my place in the team in one of the best clubs in the world.'

Appearance 423 is likely to come at Craven Cottage tomorrow, where Cech knows we will face a determined home side.

'For us, the disappointment of losing the semi-final against City will be a factor, and we need to make sure we are over that,' he said. 'It's a derby game, a huge game anyway, and if they win they know they are safe from relegation and can then play without pressure.

'They often raise their game at Craven Cottage, especially against us,' he continued. 'It's a tough fixture for us, it always has been. We never find it easy to play there, but the pressure is on us now and we need to win our games to make it easier to qualify for the Champions League.'

Victory next to the Thames will see us leapfrog Arsenal into third spot with six games remaining.