Essien ready for show of strength
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Michael Essien, the man Jose Mourinho calls 'The Wall', is ready to demonstrate his strength once more for Chelsea.

Knee injuries on four occasions since joining the Blues from Lyon in August 2005, during Mourinho's first spell in charge, have threatened Essien's future. But he was rejuvenated by a loan spell under the Portuguese at Real Madrid last season and now hopes to be part of a successful second spell at Stamford Bridge for the Special One.

At one point in Wednesday's defeat of the Singha All-Stars in Thailand, an opposing player appeared to bounce off Essien. "He hit 'The Wall'," Mourinho said.

Essien added: "When you bump into me you can tell I am still as strong and keeping fit. My knees are fine now. My knees are not giving me any problems.

I just have to keep myself fit and get ready to do a good job for the team. When you have these injuries its hard to get back but I go with the flow. I don't put pressure on myself or anything. I just listen to the doctors and once I'm fit and training I give everything."

I never thought I should stop playing, never at all. It never crossed my mind. I just wanted to get back on the pitch.
Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien

Despite "eight or nine" knee operations, Essien did not consider quitting. The 30-year-old defensive midfielder said: "I don't know if people gave up on me.

I never thought I should stop playing, never at all. It never crossed my mind. I just wanted to get back on the pitch."

Essien was a key figure in Mourinho's first spell at Stamford Bridge, but his influence reduced so that when Chelsea played in the 2012 UEFA Champions League final, Roberto Di Matteo left him on the substitutes' bench for the triumph.

Back with the Blues
When the opportunity came to be reunited with Mourinho at the Bernabeu, Essien seized it. Now he is looking forward to another spell at Chelsea under his mentor.

"We have a good relationship and we understand each other very well," said Essien.

"He's the Special One. He knows how to talk to his players and get the best out of them and it's always easy to work with him if you understand him. I understand him. I know what he wants and I always deliver.

It's going to be a very exciting season and we're all looking forward to it. I think we can do what we did last time with Mourinho and win trophies. We have the players to do the job so just have to keep working hard."

Mourinho recognises Essien's qualities and knows for the flair players in Chelsea's squad to flourish, they need a physical presence in midfield.

"I know Michael better than anybody else," Mourinho said. "I know he can play in every position but goalkeeper and striker and he will be very useful for us."