Essien confident of winning back title
Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien insists quality and experience will prevent Manchester United from winning a third successive Premier League title.
Sir Alex Ferguson claims his talented young Manchester United squad, who pipped Chelsea for the Premier League and Champions League crowns last season, will again prove to be far superior to what he claims is an ageing Blues squad.
Essien, 25, recently underpinned his loyalty to the club by signing a new five-year contract, and he remains confident that Chelsea's 'golden oldies' have the quality to regain the Premier League title they last won in 2006.
The Ghana international insists a Blues team including 30-year-old midfielders Deco and Frank Lampard and 31-year-old Michael Ballack can supply the necessary experience and quality to leave Ferguson with egg on his face.
At the moment we have new players coming in, we haven't played much yet, but we will see what happens, says Essien. 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 every day.
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.
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.
The chief reason for Essien's optimism ahead of their Premier League opener against Portsmouth next month is the arrival of new coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.
The Brazilian replaced Israeli Avram Grant who was sacked after Chelsea's failure to beat Manchester United in the Champions League final last May.
Essien says Scolari's big character will inspire the squad to success this season.
The midfielder is in favour of Scolari's 'hands-on' approach and believes that 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, added 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.
Since they failed to win any silverware last season, Chelsea have brought in Portugal duo Deco and Jose Bosingwa, while Essien, Petr Cech and Wayne Bridge have pledged their long-term futures to the Blues.
Scolari, who joined the club on July 1 after Portugal's unsuccessful campaign at Euro 2008, says he wants to bring glory back to Chelsea and repay their faith in him.
Scolari agrees there was an element of risk in Chelsea's decision to hand him the job but he has backed himself to deliver the results, and the style, which the club's billionaire owner Roman Abramovich wants.
Chelsea gambled on my ability but I believe in myself, says Scolari. I am not afraid of my job. All over the world coaches need to win competitions, not only in Chelsea.
I need to prepare my players for the Carling Cup, the FA Cup, for the Champions League, for the Premier League. If I say to my players all competitions are important for Chelsea, then I think that is the way.
The Brazilian's plans for their opening home game against Portsmouth have already been dealt a blow with new right-back Bosingwa suffering a thigh muscle tear on their pre-season tour of the Far East.
But the expected arrival of Robinho from Real Madrid for a British record £35million transfer will give Chelsea a real chance of leaving United's Ferguson red-faced at the end of the campaign.