Three key players behind Chelsea’s title charge
Steven Prince picks out Chelsea's most-influential performers so far
While Gary Cahill and captain John Terry receive frequent plaudits for their combined marshalling of Chelsea’s backline, the man to their right-back plays an equally important role. The Serbian has featured in every league game for the Blues this season so far, and his all-action performances put him alongside Manchester City’s Pablo Zabaleta as the league’s foremost right-back. Ivanovic is not only a towering defensive presence, he chips in with goals, and important goals at that. The former Lokomotiv Moscow defender has scored 19 goals for the club since joining, and his most recent gave the Blues a valuable win over Aston Villa. His eagerness to get forward give Chelsea an extra attacking dimension, if it was needed, but remains as combative and assured in defence. In the league’s second-best defence, Ivanovic is more than just a cog in the Blue machine and if he were to get injured, his buccaneering, no-nonsense style would be greatly missed.
Staying in Serbia, one department where Chelsea are not deficient is midfielder – Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard, Oscar and Willian to name just a few. One man, physically mind, towers above them. Nemanja Matic came back from good in 2014 as has rarely left the side since returning to London. While many Blues fan get misty-eyed over Claude Makelele and his take on holding midfield, the 26-year-old took the manual, ripped it up and re-wrote the aforementioned guide with no plagiarism involved. An imposing figure at 6ft 4ins, Matic possesses the attributes which all top midfielders have. In addition to this, when he is absent from the side, Chelsea look far less menacing. Matic is the farmer who allows the sheepdogs to cajole and corral, putting them where he wants them. They listen for his calls and whistles in order to supply the fatal blows.
Chelsea needed goals after Messrs Ba, Eto’o and Torres failed so abjectly to score regularly last term. Diego Costa was immediately seen as a piece of the puzzle which had been missing behind the sofa for a number of years – since Didier Drogba decided to take brief sojourns in China and Turkey. His interview went perfectly well in the Champions League semi-final as Atletico removed Chelsea from the competition and the rest is history. Since switching Madrid’s Museo de Reina Sofia for London’s Tate Modern, the Brazilian-turned-Spaniard has undertaken a brutal one-man offensive assault on the Premier League. Costa has 17 goals, five more than entire Aston Villa team. Questions still linger about the 26-year-old’s fitness and temperament however, given his recent ban for stamping on Liverpool’s Emre Can but it could be argued that this volatility makes him the threat he is. One doubts that Jose Mourinho will be asking him to change though.