Branislav Ivanovic believes nothing but a run of victories will help Chelsea recover their performance levels from last season, as they welcome Norwich City to Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
The Premier League champions have taken just 12 points from their opening 12 matches – a full 20 fewer than they had accrued at the same stage last season – and head into Saturday’s game one point and one place behind Norwich.
Jose Mourinho’s side have lost their last three league matches, piling further pressure on the manager’s shoulders, while rumours of significant dressing-room unrest has surfaced during recent weeks.
Ivanovic, however, has dispelled any notion of the players no longer wanting to perform for Mourinho.
“The only way to get out of this situation is to win, win and win again,” he told the Evening Standard.
“No one has seen anything strange in the team. It doesn’t matter the situation around you, your job is to win, your passion is winning games.
“We have been playing much better in the last few matches. We are starting to look more like last season. The games that are coming up may be some of the most important for us in the season, in terms of the psychology of the moment. We have to show we are back.”
Norwich themselves ended a run of six top-flight games without a victory thanks to a Jonny Howson header which gave them a 1-0 win over Swansea City prior to the international break.
The 27-year-old says Chelsea cannot be taken lightly due to their form but hopes to leave Stamford Bridge with a share of the spoils, just as they did on their last visit in May 2014, when they held on for a 0-0 draw.
“I don’t think there are any easy games in this league,” he said, as quoted by the Eastern Daily Press.
“They’ve still got world-class players so it’s going to be a difficult game.
“Sometimes when you come up against the big teams it is difficult but we’re still wanting to go up against those teams and put in a good performance and hopefully come away with something.”
Ivanovic is poised to return for Chelsea, after missing the last seven games with a hamstring problem, while Radamel Falcao (muscle problem) and Kurt Zouma (knock) will face late fitness assessments.
Thibaut Courtois (knee) remains out, despite returning to training this week, but Eden Hazard is expected to be available despite a minor illness while on international duty.
Matt Jarvis (knee) is sidelined for Norwich but Nathan Redmond could be fit enough to play a part after recovering from a thigh problem.
Key Opta Stats:
– Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 11 matches in all competitions against Norwich City (W8 D3), last losing to the Canaries 3-0 away in the league in December 1994.
– Norwich won four and lost one of their first six Barclays Premier League meetings with Chelsea, but have won none and lost six of the last eight.
– Eden Hazard has scored two goals in four Premier League appearances against Norwich, with one of those goals coming in his only start against the Canaries (October 2012).
– Jose Mourinho has lost seven league games in a campaign for the first time as a manager in any league.
– Dieumerci Mbokani has been involved in three of the Canaries’ last five Premier League goals (scored two, one assist).
– Chelsea have allowed more shots on target against them than any other team from inside the penalty area this season (49).
– Chelsea have scored three goals direct from free-kicks this season. The rest of the Premier League have scored four between them.
– The Blues have dropped the joint-most points from leading positions in the top flight this season (eight along with Aston Villa).