Gary Cahill expressed his delight at returning to action after playing the full 90 minutes against Swansea City and coming through the game unscathed.
The Blues defender hadn’t featured since being forced out of our 2-0 win against West Ham United in March with a knee problem, but after being an unused substitute in last week’s win in Basel, he was handed a start against Michael Laudrup’s side.
‘Obviously it’s good to be back,’ he said. ‘I watched a few games from the sidelines and it’s never great, so it’s good to be back and it was a good result which is the main thing.
‘I had a little operation, had the problem removed and then had some rehab, so it feels good, I’m happy with it and it’s great to be involved again.
‘I didn’t expect there to be too much wrong with the knee, but when I tried to make a comeback in training it kept breaking down and obviously there was a problem.
‘From when I had surgery to when I came back I think it was about three weeks, so it was a great turnaround.
‘When the surgeon saw me he said it would take around three weeks, give or take a few days, so he was bang on.’
Cahill couldn’t have timed his return any better, as the Blues attempt to secure automatic qualification for next season’s Champions League, while also chasing Europa League glory.
It’s a similar situation to the one the 27-year-old found himself in a year ago, when after sustaining an injury away in Barcelona he was forced to miss an important run of fixtures – including the FA Cup final – before returning to play in the Champions League final.
The win against Swansea, coupled with weekend draws for both Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, leaves us occupying third place in the Premier League table, but with a tough run-in, Cahill admitted there is little margin for error.
‘Last season was a strong finish and I hope we can do the same this year,’ he said. ‘We know what we have to do between now and the end of the season and we have to start by putting in performances like we did against Swansea and getting the wins.
‘We’re in a good position but it’s dangerous because we’ve got some great teams coming up in Spurs, Manchester United and Everton, who people tend to forget about but they’re not far away.
‘It’s what we need to do. That’s our target between now and the end of the season. Obviously we’ve got the cup as well so it needs a big push from the players over an important few games.
‘It’s what the lads have come to expect at this club, it’s nothing different to what we’re used to and the demands that are on us. It is in our hands, it will be difficult because we’re up against some good teams but we’re in a good position at this moment in time.’
Rafael Benitez’s decision to deploy Cahill alongside John Terry on Sunday allowed David Luiz to play, like he did in Basel, in a more advanced position.
It’s a role the Brazilian has carried out at times this season, and one which Cahill believes he has performed admirably.
‘He’s great in that position because mentally he’s defensive, even though he has attributes to go forward. It’s great for us because he sniffs out a bit of danger and never strays too far, so it works well and it’s good we can use him there if need be.
‘He’s played enough there this year so he’s really learning the position.’
Next up for the Blues in the Premier League is a trip to take on Manchester United at Old Trafford, but Cahill feels the fact our opponents have already been crowned champions will only serve to make the game a tougher test.
‘They’ll play without any pressure on them and sometimes that’s dangerous, especially with very good players,’ he explained.
‘They’ve worked hard this year and got their rewards already, but for us, we’ve got a lot of work to do and it’s another game that’s going to be very tough.’