Fernando Torres is set to make his debut for Chelsea against Liverpool - the club who sold him for a British transfer record £50million - on Sunday despite the English champions winning 4-2 against Sunderland without him.
Spain striker Torres's exit from Anfield was the standout deal of Monday's transfer window deadline day. It was also a clear sign billionaire Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, whose side are still ten points behind Premier League leaders Manchester United despite an impressive away win against Sunderland, means business.
Based on Chelsea's performance at the Stadium of Light, Carlo Ancelotti could afford to ease Torres into the team off the bench whilst retaining strike duo Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka up front for the time being. But the Italian manager hinted Torres would start at Stamford Bridge, something that even excited Sunderland boss Steve Bruce. "Torres and Drogba up front and Anelka in behind them - wow, that sounds very good to me," former United captain Bruce said.
Ancelotti's willingness to give Torres his debut at the earliest opportunity reflects his total confidence in the forward, who has cut something of a forlorn figure in a struggling Liverpool side since returning from Spain's triumphant FIFA World Cup™ campaign in South Africa last year. "Fernando has fantastic ability," Ancelotti said. "With his quality, he will have no difficulty playing with us.
"He will have no problem playing with Didier Drogba or another striker. It's not a problem, it doesn't change a lot with the diamond in midfield. Our shape won't change very much."
Ancelotti will have one problem, however, as he decides who should make way for Torres. Ivorian duo Drogba and Salomon Kalou combined well together in a twin strike force supported by France international Anelka playing behind them. "Nicolas did very well in that position," said Ancelotti. "I was very happy with his performance. He is very dangerous in that position and very difficult for Sunderland to mark. He can play there."
Anelka was rewarded with the final goal of the game, in stoppage time, after Frank Lampard's penalty and strikes from Kalou and Blues captain John Terry had finally seen off a Sunderland side who were level at 2-2 at half-time after a fourth minute opener from Phil Bardsley and a Kieran Richardson free-kick.
Chelsea face United twice in the league during the final months of the season and Ancelotti accepted the chances of overhauling Sir Alex Ferguson's unbeaten table-tappers were slim. "We have won away against Bolton and Sunderland and we are doing our best, but I don't know if it will be good enough to fight for the title. If Manchester United continue their run it will be difficult to close the gap."
Bruce agreed, saying: "They have two games against Manchester United which will be crucial. They are playing well again but whether they can claw back ten points is highly debatable. They are a fantastic team, though. They look like the real Chelsea again. We've given as good as we've got but Chelsea are formidable when they are like that," Bruce added.
"When you put Torres in there you can imagine how formidable they will be. It's pretty mouthwatering. But we played our part in a breathtaking game with lots of pace and power. It's what the Premier League is all about - a wonderful spectacle."