IVANOVIC: FIGHTING FIT
Branislav Ivanovic is back, and if selected he's looking forward to returning to FA Cup action this weekend. A knee injury struck Ivanovic 30 minutes into our home win against Liverpool after Christmas, meaning for the first time this season he spent a spell out of the side, missing consecutive away wins at Southampton, Derby and Hull. He had started, and finished, every Premier League game prior to going off against Liverpool.
The initial prognosis suggested he would not be available for selection until the end of this month, but the right-back returned sooner than expected, starting and impressing in last Sunday's 3-1 victory over Manchester United.
'It can happen when you have a great medical team,' explains Ivanovic.
'They are all great guys who are working very hard with you every day. I think half of it is down to me and half of it is down to them.
'It is a great feeling when you are back in the team for a big game and you win. It was a proper good win against Man United. It is very important for us to win the big games, and it was great for the confidence of all the players.'
His spell on the sidelines also forced him out of our FA Cup third round game at Derby. It is a competition that has treated Ivanovic very well in the past, with winners' medals secured in 2009, 2010 and 2012. If we are to repeat the feat in 2014, we must first get past Stoke on Sunday. The defender is aware of the challenge our visitors will pose, not least because they beat us in the league last month.
'The FA Cup is always interesting, that's true. It's a difficult competition because every team plays with a different feeling. Over the years we have seen that.
'We have to be focused right, better than we were for the league game against Stoke. It's very important to be on the top of our game and try to win it.'
This month marks the sixth anniversary of Ivanovic's move to Stamford Bridge. Asked to reflect on his trophy-laden Chelsea years, a smile breaks out.
'It's really nice. I'm very proud to be a part of this team in the last six years.
'I have won many things and it's been the most successful part of my career here. I'm really really enjoying playing for this club.'