Defensive figures played their part in last week’s Europa League win in Basel, and Branislav Ivanovic believes they are ready to do it again if required.
The Serbian’s header was deflected home off Victor Moses to open the scoring in Switzerland, before David Luiz’s late free-kick earned us a 2-1 win to bring back to Stamford Bridge for tonight’s semi-final second leg.
Over the course of this season, Ivanovic has netted seven Chelsea goals, one more than his defensive colleagues Gary Cahill, David Luiz and John Terry, with a recent surge of goals at set-pieces. In April, Ivanovic scored against Sunderland and Terry twice against Fulham, while in his only game Cahill headed just over at a corner last weekend against Swansea.
‘We have been preparing for set-pieces and it is working well at the moment,’ said the 29-year-old. ‘Important games can be decided by one throw-in or one corner kick, any set-pieces, so you have to pay attention to it and it has been going well.
‘We have one of the most dangerous set-pieces of all the teams in the Premier League. We’ve done well, we’re dangerous with good movement and height, we jump well and so it can be difficult for the opponents to decide which player is most dangerous.
‘We scored a lot of goals this season as defenders, which is good for the team because it helps take the strain off the attackers Of course our main job is to stop goals, this is normal, but it’s nice to help the team in other ways.’
Forced through suspension to sit out last May’s Champions League final against Bayern Munich, Ivanovic is determined not to miss a potential Europa League final in Amsterdam on May 15, should we make it past Basel. It is a task he is not taking lightly.
‘Thursday will be a very difficult game. We won the game in Switzerland but it is not over because Basel showed they can play, they’ve nothing to lose now and will be fully motivated,’ he explained. ‘We have to be ready for that and know we must fight from the first minute. It is the only approach to try and kill the game.
‘In this stage of the competition you want to go all the way through. We had a positive result in the first semi and we want to reach the final. There is the possibility of another trophy, which is great motivation for us, and we want to end the season well.’