Michael Essien is looking forward to a fierce battle against a close friend in New Jersey on Sunday night.
We meet AC Milan in the semi-final of the International Champions Cup at the MetLife Stadium with a place in Wednesday’s final in Miami to play for, but there is more to the game for Essien, who is determined to emerge triumphant against his fellow Ghanaian Sulley Muntari, formerly of Portsmouth in the Barclays Premier League.
‘I know a few of the Milan guys and Muntari I know very well, we always keep in touch and he is like a brother to me,’ said the 30-year-old. ‘It will be good to see him and of course I want to beat him so it will be an interesting game for me.
‘For the team it’s another pre-season game but we want to keep winning so we will go out there and do our best, and try and win the game and progress in the tournament. It’s good to get used to winning, we’ve been doing it and we haven’t lost any games yet. We want to keep going and build that confidence for when the season starts.’
Essien’s is an attitude reflected in the squad, who have been putting in the hard yards in some tough training sessions.
‘Everybody wants to win. It’s the mentality we have,’ he stressed. ‘Even in training we don’t mess around, everyone is competitive and I think it’s good for us going into games, and for the team spirit.’
On an individual level, the versatile midfielder, who played 45 minutes against Inter on Thursday, is enjoying life back at Chelsea.
‘It’s good so far, everything is going well,’ he smiled. ‘We’re working hard and we will keep doing that. It’s nice to be back, seeing the young players, the new ones as well as my old friends and I’m looking forward to the new season. I feel very good. The hard work is paying off and I just feel like I need more games, to build the minutes and to get full games.’
It is unlikely that opportunity will come this evening in New Jersey with Jose Mourinho expected to continue his policy of making multiple substitutions, but however long he plays, it is reassuring to know Essien has his hunger.
You can watch tonight’s game live on Chelsea TV.