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Serie A heavyweights head-to-head

50-50 Challenge 2 days ago
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By ESPN Staff
Jul 23, 2008

Essien believes Chelsea's experience will be key

Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien believes experience will triumph over youth in the battle for the Premier League title.

Sir Alex Ferguson has claimed his youthful Manchester United squad, who edged Chelsea for the domestic and European double last season, will again triumph over an ageing Blues side under their new coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.

But 25-year-old Essien, fresh from agreeing a new five-year contract, is confident a Blues team including 30-year-old midfielders Deco and Frank Lampard and 31-year-old Michael Ballack can end United's two-year reign as Premier League champions.

'At the moment we have new players coming in, we haven't played much yet, but we will see what happens,' said Essien, one of only a handful of Chelsea players in their mid-20s.

'For me, we don't really think about our opponents. They are also working really hard but it is up to us to work really hard also.

'I think we have got a lot of the best players in the world and that is going to help us. But we are going to have to work hard as it's not going to be easy.

'To train and play with players like Deco, Lampard and Ballack helps you improve a lot. They are world-class players and it is a privilege to train with them and play with them everyday.

'We have quality players but it is still going to be a very difficult season. Deco, Ballack and Lampard are world-class players and you can see that in training and during the games. They can always change a game. They have their own style of play and help the team a lot.

'We have a winning mentality, they are bad losers like me. It happens but I don't like to lose.'

Essien also refuses to accept that it is solely United who can stop them next term.

He said: 'Manchester United are not only Chelsea's main rivals next season. You have Arsenal and Liverpool and a lot of clubs who are signing a lot of good players.

'It is going to be difficult but we are going to go out and play our best. But for me it will only be Chelsea - Chelsea will win the title this year.'

Michael Essien believes Luiz Felipe Scolari's 'big character' will inspire success at Stamford Bridge this season.

After taking over from Avram Grant following Euro 2008, Scolari has stated he wants to bring a new philosophy to the club while also taking an active role in training, a scene which the Ghanaian revealed was not seen under the Israeli.

While Essien is in favour of Scolari's hands-on approach, the 25-year-old believes the Brazilian is similar to former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho who guided the Blues to league titles in 2005 and 2006.

'He has his own ways tactically on the pitch and hopefully it can help us in the league,' said Essien. 'Our new boss is really strong. He is a very good coach and we are glad to have him here.

'You need to be a big character at Chelsea and I think he has that. He is a tough guy but off the pitch he is friendly.'

Under the former Portugal and Brazil coach, Chelsea's squad has undergone a summer revival.

Since going close but failing to win either the Barclays Premier League or Champions League last season, Chelsea have brought in Portugal duo Deco and Boswinga, while Essien, Petr Cech and Wayne Bridge have pledged their long-term future to the club.

Veteran midfielder Claude Makelele and Dutch defender Khalid Boulahrouz have, though, departed for Paris St Germain and Stuttgart.

And despite the speculation surrounding the future of striker Didier Drogba and midfielder Frank Lampard, Essien is confident Chelsea are capable of mounting a Premier League challenge.

'At the moment we have new players who have not played a lot together so we will see what happens,' added Essien.

'We don't think about our opponents as we have a lot of the best players in the world. To play a lot with players like Deco and Lampard helps you improve a lot. They are world-class players.

'The competition for places makes you a better player. They are world-class as you can see in training; they can also always change a game. We have a winning mentality which is good, like me they don't like to lose.'

While Essien refused to be drawn in naming a direct title challenger, the former Lyon midfielder predicted champions Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool would be in the hunt next May.

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