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Chelsea out to maul Black Cats

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By ESPN Staff
Dec 23, 2006

Drogba hails Essien impact for title chase

Chelsea goal hero Didier Drogba has singled out Michael Essien as one of the major reasons why they are closing the gap on Manchester United at the top of the Premiership.

Essien is the only Chelsea player to have played every game this season and his stunning equaliser against Arsenal is now a candidate for goal of the season.

The Ghanaian midfielder's contribution has not gone unnoticed by Drogba who is grabbing all the headlines for smashing 17 goals so far this season.

The Ivorian striker has hit the winning goal in Chelsea's last two league games and topped that by coming off the substitutes' bench to fire them into the semi-final of the Carling Cup with the winner over Newcastle in midweek.

But Drogba said: 'He (Essien) has played every minute this season and is one of the best midfielders in the world.

'He is unique. He can play right-back, central midfield and centre-back. Chelsea supporters now know why the club bought him.'

Meanwhile Chelsea right-back Geremi has revealed how captain John Terry gave the squad individual presents at the training ground yesterday.

The England captain is doubtful for today's trip to Wigan because of a recurring back injury but that did not stop him becoming Santa Claus to the rest of Jose Mourinho's squad before the flight north from Gatwick Airport.

Terry handed each player an individual book comprised of pictures of last season's title triumph - the team's second consecutive Barclays Premiership crown under Mourinho.

The gifts were well received by the rest of the players as Geremi revealed: 'It is a big blow that he is injured at the moment.

'But we know he is first-choice. But we have to do without him at the moment. He is always in the dressing room, even when he is not playing.

'We need him because he is a character and to motivate the players. We received a book full of great moments from last season. It was a great present.

'He gave a book to each one of us. He was the only one to think about giving presents. It is something we will keep forever.'

Meanwhile Geremi pledged his support to Mourinho who had come under fire from the League Manager's Association for waving an imaginary card at the referee during their Carling Cup tie with Newcastle.

It was suggested that Mourinho was trying to influence the official into booking United players for tackles he thought warranted further punishment - even though FIFA are trying to stop players doing the same thing on the pitch.

But Geremi said: 'The manager is like a player. For me he was right to do that. Sometimes you react because you are in the game, especially a manager.

'I have done it. When a player makes a bad tackle you remind the referee it is not fair and he deserves a yellow card.'