IVANOVIC: PRAISING PETR

Chelsea can call upon the services of two national players of the year today as we look to keep Everton at bay at Goodison Park.

Should the defence that has kept two clean sheets on the spin remain unchanged then it will line up with Branislav Ivanovic as one of the central defenders located in front of Petr Cech, who will be making his 400th Chelsea appearance.

Ivanovic on Christmas Eve was named Serbia’s Player of 2012, joining Cech who in May won the Czech Republic equivalent. Eden Hazard was the Ligue 1 Player of the Year in France last season but not the Belgian No. 1.

Ivanovic flew to Serbia and back on Monday for the award ceremony and spoke to the official Chelsea website about his honour, the first time he has won it.

‘For me it is one of the most important awards you can get, but of course I have to say thank you to all my team mates because without Chelsea’s success it is not going to be this for me.

‘It is a great pleasure for me and I will try in the future to do a lot of good things for my country and also for the club. I am trying to copy this year for next year and I hope it is going be more successful for the national team.’

Serbia did not qualify for Euro 2012 and in the wake of that, Ivanovic became the captain of his national team.Despite that high profile job and Chelsea’s Champions League success, he says life is still pretty normal for him when he goes back to his homeland.

At Chelsea, he now has 188 appearances to his name, some way short of Cech’s 399, a club record for a player from overseas.

With our keeper set to pass the 400 game milestone today, Ivanovic talks about playing in front of the number one throughout his time here.

‘Petr for me last year was the best goalkeeper in Europe, and he showed that especially with the way we won the Champions League – but it is not just that year, his career is brilliant and he gives his best years and his best moments to Chelsea.

‘To have him back behind you is a really good thing because he is a guy who makes you trust him.

‘We are defending well as a team at the moment and a lot of that is down to Petr Cech because he is always talking to you and he is someone who always supports you.’

BENITEZ: A SPECIAL TIME

Rafael Benitez prepares to revisit a familiar part of the country on Sunday afternoon as he looks to secure maximum points from the Christmas period.

Our interim manager spent six years on Merseyside as manager of Everton’s city rivals Liverpool, and knows just what to expect from David Moyes’s side at Goodison Park this afternoon.

The Toffees approach the game in fifth place following wins against West Ham and Wigan, and we have not won there in the Barclays Premier League since April 2008.

‘Moyes is doing a great job, they have good players and team spirit and it will be a tough game for us,’ Benitez said. ‘They are doing well at the top of the table and fighting against teams with more resources.’

The Spaniard’s family still live on Merseyside, and he has two daughters at school in the area. Having helped the families who suffered at the Hillsborough tragedy, he retains strong links with the city.

‘Obviously it is something special when you go to Liverpool. My connection with the city is very strong,’ he said.

‘I have lived in many places, Liverpool was fantastic, and my family understand I have to move around. The children are in school so have to stay there but I am really pleased in Cobham also. When you have children, who have their friends around, it is difficult to move the family around.

‘Football in England is something special. Everybody has passion all around the country. Every game is important and you enjoy football. I was in Italy and I remember an interview where a guy was saying the difference in football with England and Spain is that you can go with your family to the football. It is something safe. People take football with passion but also as entertainment and it’s really good.’

Residing on his own in Surrey, Benitez is able to spend more time planning training sessions and getting to know the players he has at his disposal. He has been delighted with the progress made in a short space of time.

‘I wanted to manage a top side and Chelsea is a top side, so I am really pleased. I am happy watching the players train and work so hard, and winning. After Japan winning games in a row and showing character, I am really happy and they are responding really well,’ he explained.

‘To be fair I am more adapting myself to them, so I know what I want and what we are trying to achieve but the main thing is the feedback from them. We listen to them and adjust things in the way we want but give them some freedom and we have a good balance. They are keen to learn and that’s the main thing as a manager.

‘You could see against Aston Villa we were thinking about the attack, but we have to be strong in defence and a clean sheet is also positive. The players have more confidence if they know they can go forward and the defence is alright. Balance is key in any top side. If you regain the ball you have possession and will be more dangerous. At Norwich against a good team we were controlling the game, and still trying to go forward.’

PRE-MATCH BRIEFING: EVERTON V CHELSEA – PART TWO

29.12.2012

PRE-MATCH BRIEFING: EVERTON V CHELSEA – PART TWO

Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton conclude their 2012 previews…

28.12.2012

CHELSEA TV EXCLUSIVE: FIXED FOCUS

Rafael Benitez has only one new injury concern ahead of the Everton game despite the crowded Christmas fixture programme that has so far yielded six points from two games…

28.12.2012

BENITEZ COLLECTS BEST PERFORMANCE AWARD

The 8-0 win over Aston Villa on Sunday has been recognised by the League Managers Association (LMA) who named it Performance of the Week…

28.12.2012

PRE-MATCH BRIEFING: EVERTON V CHELSEA – PART ONE

An historic year for the club draws to a close with a visit to Merseyside…

28.12.2012

SWANSEA SEMI-FINAL TICKETS ON GENERAL SALE

With the Blues now only 180 minutes away from yet another Wembley appearance, make sure you come along to Stamford Bridge and cheer us on to glory against Swansea City in the Capital One Cup

28.12.2012

CECH: CLOSING THE GAP

Petr Cech believes making ourselves more difficult to break down has been the main factor behind our recent impressive run of form…

28.12.2012

CHELSEA TV HEADLINES: RAMIRES RETURNS

Ramires returned to training this morning after sitting out the win at Norwich on Boxing Day, and it is hoped the midfielder will be fit for Everton on Sunday.

27.12.2012

THE TWEET SPOT: PETR CECH

While in Japan at the FIFA Club World Cup, Petr Cech answered tweeted questions from our supporters in that part of the world.

27.12.2012

KEEPING COMPACT

While Juan Mata’s goal was the outstanding moment in Chelsea’s first Boxing Day win since 2008, the defending in the 1-0 win at Carrow Road drew plenty of comment after the match…

27.12.2012

CHELSEA TV HEADLINES: A WINTER BREAK

The first team has a day off on Thursday following Boxing Day’s win at Norwich, and so Chelsea TV’s headlines come from Stamford Bridge…

27.12.2012

READING TICKET DETAILS

The ticket selling arrangements for our Barclays Premier League visit to Reading have been announced.

27.12.2012

CHELSEA TV EXCLUSIVE: MAGNIFICENT MATA

Juan Mata, scorer of the decisive strike at Norwich, spoke to Chelsea TV after the game…

27.12.2012

THE DATA DAY: NORWICH CITY V CHELSEA

It looked for periods like Chelsea were on the back foot at Norwich, but the numbers tell us it was the Blues well and truly on top across the 90 minutes…

26.12.2012

FINAL WHISTLE VERDICT: ON THE UP

Rafael Benitez sees continued improvement in the side following the Boxing Day victory at Norwich.

26.12.2012

MATCH REPORT: NORWICH CITY 0 CHELSEA 1

Juan Mata’s 13th goal of the season, on his 50th Barclays Premier League appearance, brought us a third consecutive league win on Boxing Day.

26.12.2012

TEAM NEWS: NORWICH CITY V CHELSEA

John Mikel Obi returns in central midfield, where he plays alongside David Luiz. Juan Mata makes his 50th Premier League appearance.

26.12.2012

MIKEL: BRIEF RETURN

John Mikel Obi returns to action at Norwich this afternoon determined to make an impact before he departs once more on international duty…

26.12.2012

PRE-MATCH BRIEFING: NORWICH CITY V CHELSEA – PART TWO

Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton complete their Boxing Day build-up…

26.12.2012

BENITEZ: BALANCING ACT

Rafael Benitez has called on his team to show the levels of consistency which he believes will help us close the gap on the teams above us – starting with today’s game against Norwich City

26.12.2012

IVANOVIC ACCEPTS ACCOLADE

Branislav Ivanovic has been named Serbia’s Player of the Year…

25.12.2012

PRE-MATCH BRIEFING: NORWICH CITY V CHELSEA – PART ONE

The Boxing Day fixture takes us away from home…

25.12.2012

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Everyone at Chelsea Football Club would like to wish a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our fans, partners and sponsors.

CHELSEA TV EXCLUSIVE: FIXED FOCUS

Rafael Benitez has only one new injury concern ahead of the Everton game despite the crowded Christmas fixture programme that has so far yielded six points from two games.

Speaking to Chelsea TV following Friday’s training, the interim manager confirmed Ramires is expected to be fit for the trip to Goodison Park following a minor knee injury that kept him out on Boxing Day, but another midfielder will have a fitness test before the squad head north on Saturday afternoon, as will Ryan Bertrand who has not played since coming off during the Leeds game with a groin strain.

‘Bertrand is nearly there but he is still not fully fit and now we have John Mikel Obi with a small problem with his knee, so we will check those players tomorrow,’ Benitez told the club’s channel.

John Terry will not be ready to return and with the team having kept clean sheets in the last two games, Benitez may be tempted to name an unchanged defence for a third game in a row. Wholesale rotation is not being considered.

‘I am trying to manage the squad and trying to use different players for different games. I cannot change too many but two or three can give us fresh legs,’ he said, ‘and the players they know they have to compete and that is positive too.

‘It is not easy because you have to play the games in a short time and you have a lot of distractions around the family at Christmas which is a very special, but I felt we were focused against Aston Villa and Norwich and hopefully it will be the same in the next couple of games.

‘Everton will be very tough, very dangerous because they are doing well but we are doing well at the same time so hopefully we can keep our momentum.’

A clip of Rafael Benitez talking to Chelsea TV can be viewed above with the full interview available via the channel’s online access from 9am on Sunday.

BENITEZ COLLECTS BEST PERFORMANCE AWARD

The 8-0 win over Aston Villa on Sunday has been recognised by the League Managers Association (LMA) who named it Performance of the Week.

Rafael Benitez was presented with an engraved crystal football to mark the award at Cobham today (Friday).

The result, which matched Chelsea’s best win in top-flight football, was chosen from all the games played over the past week throughout the divisions by a panel comprising LMA chairman Howard Wilkinson, Sir Alex Ferguson, Joe Royle, Dave Bassett and Barry Fry.

On collecting the award, Benitez said:

‘It is great to win this and I say thank you to the players because they deserve to receive all the credit as it was a great performance.

‘We are now in a good moment, we are scoring goals and the game against Aston Villa was amazing, then after we had a professional performance against Norwich.’