Chelsea are determined to bring Manchester United's electrifying start to the season to a juddering halt on Sunday as the Premier League rivals collide in a heavyweight clash at Old Trafford.
The Londoners travel to Manchester as underdogs having already suffered three crucial defeats against Sir Alex Ferguson's men this year, losing in both the league and UEFA Champions League at the tail-end of last season. As if their poor recent record wasn't daunting enough, Chelsea are also facing a United side who have started the season in dazzling form, racking up four consecutive wins and notching an unprecedented 18 goals.
Chelsea know only too well however that early season appearances can be misleading, pointing to the club's blistering start last year, when they notched 17 goals in four wins before enduring a slump which scuppered their challenge. "United started very well this season but, if you remember, we started last season the same," Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic said.
"They've improved as a group but we have our aim, we have our idea and we try to use this on the pitch. It's going to be the hardest game for us until now and we have to show more than 100 per cent of our power."
Ivanovic played in all three of the defeats suffered by Chelsea against United last season, which included two comprehensive losses in Manchester. However the Serbian centre-half insists Chelsea, who can go top if they win on Sunday, will not take any psychological scars to Old Trafford.
"Last season was a different situation because we had to win there, and when you play a big game away and you have to win, psychologically, it's completely different," he said. "It's the first big, big test for our team, how we've improved, and we're going there trying to show our best football and to take a good result."
Ivanovic and the Chelsea back four's biggest challenge will be finding a way to shackle Wayne Rooney, the marauding England striker who heads into the game on the back of consecutive hat-tricks. "He scored a lot of goals and we'll try to stop him," Ivanovic said.
Ferguson meanwhile plans to recall goalkeeper David de Gea and Ashley Young for the clash after resting both in the 1-1 draw at Benfica on Wednesday. "David De Gea will play on Sunday. That was the understanding we had before the Benfica game and it doesn't change," Ferguson said.
High-flying City visit Cottagers
Elsewhere this weekend, Manchester City will aim to keep pace with United at the top of the table as they travel to Craven Cottage to face a Fulham side still looking for their first win of the season.
Liverpool meanwhile head to White Hart Lane to face Tottenham, expected to be one of the Merseysiders main rivals for a top four spot this season. Reds boss Kenny Dalglish was left seething after last weekend's defeat at Stoke, claiming the club were being unduly penalised by match officials.
However Dalglish's mood has softened after a meeting with referees' chief Mike Riley at the club's Melwood training ground this week. "It was good to see Mike and we had an extremely informative and amicable discussion, which has given us all a better understanding of how things operate," Dalglish said.
"It's our job to best represent the club and protect its interests, but we have the utmost respect for the job referees do and have never wanted or asked for any form of preferential treatment, simply a level playing field for everyone. We will continue to conduct ourselves in a dignified and respectful manner at all times. From our perspective it was certainly worthwhile sitting down together and maybe it's something that should happen more often."