Didier Drogba has called on Chelsea to halt Liverpool's resurgence in its tracks as the champions head to Anfield to resume hostilities with their bitter Premier League rivals.
The Blues travel to Liverpool brimming with confidence after following up their battling victory at Blackburn with a 4-1 drubbing of Spartak Moscow to reach the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League in midweek. Yet while Liverpool have endured a poor start to the season, Drogba is wary of the threat posed by Roy Hodgson's men after they recorded their second victory in a row over Bolton last week to climb out of the relegation zone.
"There is never a good time to go to Anfield because they are a very strong team," said Drogba. "They will try to use this game to start their season, so we have to be ready. We are seeing a different Liverpool than the one from earlier in the season. They have won their last two matches and their confidence is getting higher.
"We have to be careful. It's true that we shouldn't fear any team but we're going to have some difficult moments. Since I've been here, Chelsea v Liverpool has been special and it's always a difficult game. We're going there to win but it's not going to be easy."
A hamstring injury will prevent Liverpool's summer signing Joe Cole from facing his former club for the first time since leaving Stamford Bridge. Chelsea meanwhile are likely to welcome the return of skipper John Terry, rested against Spartak Moscow, although midfielder Frank Lampard remains unavailable for Sunday's clash as he recovers from a hernia operation.
Chelsea start the weekend five points clear at the top of the table, with Arsenal and Manchester United ready to eat into their lead in the event of a slip-up by the Londoners. Both Arsenal and Manchester United face potentially awkward games however, with the Gunners taking on a buoyant Newcastle side after their 5-1 win over Sunderland, and United entertaining Wolves at Old Trafford with Mick McCarthy's side riding high after their deserved win over Manchester City.
"It's alright upsetting them, you've got to really upset them and take something off them - and wouldn't they be nice back-to-back results?," said McCarthy. "Seriously, why shouldn't we get any points out of them? The result last Saturday helped do a whole lot for self-belief and confidence. No matter what you do if you keep getting beat you start to wonder where the results are going to come from." United have also been hit by injuries to Darren Fletcher and Nani, who both picked up knocks on Champions League duty this week.
Wenger seeks firing Gunners
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger meanwhile will be looking for a reaction from his side after they were beaten by Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday. Wenger was furious after his side's loss in Ukraine, accusing his players of complacency in a 2-1 defeat.
Manchester City meanwhile face a tricky trip to West Bromwich Albion, with boss Roberto Mancini knowing that another defeat is certain to fuel more speculation about his position. With Emmanuel Adebayor and Vincent Kompany squabbling on the pitch during last week's defeat by Wolves, City have been beset by rumours of a rapidly deteriorating atmosphere inside the Eastlands dressing room.
It was left to England midfielder James Milner to make an impassioned rebuttal of the reported dressing room strife. "When we see nonsense written in the papers it pulls us closer together," Milner said. "When it seems like the whole world is against you, that is when you pull together. These things will make us stronger as a football club."
Meanwhile Bolton face Tottenham with Wanderers boss Owen Coyle attempting to succeed where Inter Milan's Rafa Benitez failed - namely finding a way of containing rampaging Spurs midfielder Gareth Bale. "How do you stop Bale? With difficulty," said Coyle after the Spurs star almost single-handedly destroyed Inter in the Champions League on Tuesday.
"But it is the same every week in this league," Coyle added. "If it is not Gareth Bale, it is Didier Drogba, Fernando Torres, Wayne Rooney or (Dimitar) Berbatov. That is why we love being at this level.