Ivanovic wary of upwardly mobile Villa
CHELSEA return to Premier League duty after their mid-season 'break' this weekend knowing they will face an Aston Villa side high in confidence.
Before the Blues headed off to Japan to take part in the Club World Cup, Paul Lambert's men were struggling at the lower end of the table, but their situation changed somewhat while Chelsea were away.
The Champions League winners have come home to see that Villa not only beat Norwich 4-1 to make the semi-finals of the League Cup, but also went to Anfield and defeated Liverpool 3-1 in the league.
Their mood is obviously high as a result and Chelsea could probably do without facing them after a week of travel which has taken them from Asia to London - via Leeds for a cup win of their own - but, according to defender Branislav Ivanovic, that is what they have to do.
"At the beginning of the season Aston Villa didn't start well, but now they have got confidence and are playing every game better and better," he said.
"For sure they will come on Sunday with nothing to lose as it's an away game for them and will play with extra confidence after winning at Anfield last week."
Chelsea will at least be glad of the game being a Sunday one, with their legs still suffering from the jet lag of their trip and also the heavy conditions at a rain-soaked Elland Road on Wednesday night.
They did not show any real signs of tiredness against the Championship side, scoring five second-half goals to ensure they cancelled out a first-half Luciano Becchio goal.
Once Juan Mata had equalised against Leeds the result never seemed in doubt, with stand-in captain Frank Lampard admitting that some tough half-time talking helped sort them out.
"We upped it in the second half. We were slow in the first but when we played with pace, you could see the difference," said the England midfielder.
"We had a word with ourselves at half-time and the early goal gave us an impetus to go on and win it."