Anelka welcoming competition
Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka has vowed to fight for his place under new manager Andre Villas-Boas. With England U-21 striker Daniel Sturridge back from an impressive loan spell at Bolton, Fernando Torres insisting he is ready to justify his £50m price-tag and evergreen Didier Drogba ready to go again, there had been suggestions 32-year-old Anelka would be ready to leave and move to Major League Soccer in the United States.
However, the French striker, who broke through as a teenager at Arsenal in 1997/98, insists he still has plenty to offer as Chelsea prepare for tomorrow's friendly against a Malaysia XI at the sold-out 84,000 Bukit Jalil National Stadium.
"I am still here and still very pleased to be with Chelsea. I like a challenge," Anelka said, quoted by the London Evening Standard. "It is all part of the game and when you play at a club like Chelsea you have to be ready to meet the challenge from wherever it comes. Every single member of this squad will have to fight to play and I am ready to fight."
Anelka welcomes the healthy competition and believes Torres, who took time to settle following his big-money January move from Liverpool, will come good. "The problem last season was that Fernando was a new player and it is difficult when you come from another team and then play in a style you are not used to," he said. "Now he is getting used to how we perform he has scored one goal in pre-season already. Fernando looked sharp and I think everything will be okay for him."
Anelka echoed the sentiments of team-mate Frank Lampard, who claimed no matter how much their Premier League title rivals spend, Chelsea still believe they will be the team to beat. "I don't think we need to strengthen the squad if we are going to win the Champions League," he said. "We have a good squad already. We are strong everywhere and I do not detect any real weaknesses."
He added: "Our biggest challenge will be the same as it has always been - Manchester United. They won the title and have bought some good players so they will be our biggest challengers, but we will be ready for them I can assure you."
Sturridge, meanwhile, is determined to make an impression on the new Blues manager, having netted eight league goals in 12 appearances for Bolton. "I'm here training in pre-season and looking forward to the start of the new season, where I can show everybody what I am capable of doing," he said on Sky Sports News.
"It is the same in every team around the world. Every striker has got to fight for their place and it is no different here. It doesn't matter whether you are a star or not a star, you have to show the manager what you are capable of doing. Every season is a new season. The past is the past, in my opinion, so everyone has got to fight for their place."
Chelsea are close to completing the signing of young Genk goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, and Villas-Boas is expected to further strengthen his squad when they return from the Barclays Asia Trophy, which could see them face Aston Villa or Blackburn.
Full-back Ashley Cole has been impressed by how the former Porto boss, who was part of Jose Mourinho's backroom staff at Stamford Bridge, has settled into his new role. The England defender said: "We have a young manager who is somewhat on the same wavelength with the players. This is wonderful to the team. When we train and if we are tired the manager will stop the training and move on to other things to add spice to our training sessions. This has been good and we have come on fine so far."