IVANOVIC: STILL BUILDING
A resurgent Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge in the Barclays Premier League on Sunday, and Branislav Ivanovic is wary of the threat posed by in-form striker Christian Benteke.
The Belgian, who signed for Paul Lambert's side from Genk back in August, has already notched eight goals this season, including a brace in last week's 3-1 win at Liverpool, and Ivanovic believes our defence will need to be at our very best in order to limit the 22-year-old's influence.
'From the beginning of the season they didn't start well, but now they have confidence, they are playing better in every game and they come to Stamford Bridge with nothing to lose,' said the Serbian.
'Their win at Anfield will give them extra confidence, and it will be a very difficult game for us, especially as we still need to adapt after coming back from Japan. We have to be mentally ready and recover well before the game.
'He's a very good striker; he controls the ball well with good technique and has very good movement, so it will be a hard game. They have a good mix of strikers with [Gabriel] Agbonlahor as well.'
Last weekend's defeat in the FIFA Club World Cup final was obviously a major disappointment, but having secured our place in the Capital One Cup semi-finals with a relatively comfortable 5-1 win at Elland Road, we head into Sunday's game in good spirits.
Our last league match, prior to the trip to Japan, saw us record a much-needed 3-1 win at Sunderland with a good performance, but equally important, says Ivanovic, is the ability to win ugly.
'We are still building the team and we grow with every game,' he said. 'Sometimes it's very difficult, but with every match and every minute on the pitch we're getting better.
'It's important for us to win games when we are not playing well; it's good for our confidence and for the belief of the players.'
Having only returned from the Far East 48 hours ahead of the Leeds game, there was a concern as to how the players might be affected with regards to their fitness, and Ivanovic was simply delighted to have got the job done.
'It was a bit scary at the beginning of the game because we didn't know how we would feel,' he said.
'But at the end of the day we won, we are happy and we have to look forward.'