London: Demba Ba has been tipped to make a major impact on Chelsea’s bid to claim the Premier League title for the first time since 2010.
Ba scored his first league goal of the season when he completed the Blues’ 3-1 victory over Southampton and pressed his claims to start when Jose Mourinho’s side face Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Wednesday.
The Senegal striker’s contribution after appearing as a half-time substitute helped turn the game Chelsea’s way and defender Branislav Ivanovic believes Ba’s physical strength offers a different option than that provided by fellow forwards Fernando Torres and Samuel Eto’o.
Ivanovic said: “Demba shows every minute he’s on the pitch that he tries to fight and is a physical striker. Sometimes you have to change your style of football and try to hit long balls, he’s very useful for this team and very important. Everyone is happy about Demba scoring his first league goal, but it’s not just about that because he can keep the ball, and he did that against Southampton.”
Chelsea’s strikers have struggled to click this season, but Ivanovic believes the different styles of their three main forwards will help in the club’s bid for honours. This is a good thing for our team. We can change each game and also change quickly during the game,” he said.
“It is important for us to have different types of players and the manager can choose different strikers for each game. Demba did very well against Southampton and his goal was a reward for the way he played.”
The victory over Southampton kept Mourinho’s side within four points of the leaders, Arsenal.
But with a full programme of midweek fixtures, anything less than victory against a Sunderland side managed by former Chelsea favourite Gus Poyet could widen that gap.
But Ivanovic is confident Chelsea can keep tabs on the leaders and maintain their challenge.
“At this stage in recent years we would always be trailing by a lot of points, but we are up there now and this has given us an opportunity,” he said.
Poyet admits it will be one of his proudest moments in football leading out Sunderland against his former club.
The former Uruguay international made 145 appearances for the London club during a four-year stint at Stamford Bridge from 1997, earning European Cup Winners’ Cup, European Super Cup and FA Cup winner’s medals in the process.
“These are the kind of games I really look forward to and, with it being Chelsea, it’s going to be very special for me, leading the side at home in front of our own fans,” Poyet said.
Poyet’s side remain second from bottom, five points adrift of safety, despite keeping their first away clean sheet of the season in the 0-0 stalemate at Aston Villa.
The 46-year-old’s first meeting with his former club since taking charge at the Stadium of Light in October is a dress-rehearsal for the fifth round League Cup tie on Wearside between the two sides later this month.
Sunderland have won their last three home games, and their head coach added: “The performance at Villa was our best away from home since I arrived, and we must maintain that momentum against Chelsea.”