Michael Essien is ready to sacrifice his all-action style in order to do another shackling job on Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard when Chelsea look to reach the Champions League semi-finals tomorrow night.
A superb performance by the Blues at Anfield earned them a 3-1 first-leg lead and Essien’s man-marking job on Gerrard was among the chief reasons why Chelsea ran out comfortable winners.
Liverpool must score at least three goals at Stamford Bridge to stand any chance of turning the tie in their favour but the Ghana international is ready to stifle Gerrard once more if coach Guus Hiddink asks him.
Essien was rested for Chelsea’s 4-3 Barclays Premier League win over Bolton on Saturday but he will return to the line-up as Hiddink’s side look for a place in the last four.
He has spent much of the season on the sidelines following a knee ligament injury sustained on international duty but he returned to score a vital goal as Chelsea earned a crucial 2-2 draw to see off Juventus in the last round.
“Everybody said I must have been very happy with the goal, but for me, it is all about the team work,” said Essien.
“We did a good job in Turin and it was a very positive result, so that is what is most important. I don’t play for myself, I play for the team.
“I’d describe myself as a box-to-box midfielder, but I’ll always respect the manager’s decision, wherever I’m picked to play.
“Against Juventus it was a tactical move to put me on the right to try to stop the runs of Pavel Nedved.
“I always listen to the manager and I just go onto the field for every game and do what he asks me to do. So I don’t really mind where I play as long as I’m out there doing a job for the team and the manager.”
The arrival of Hiddink as interim coach has transformed Chelsea’s fortunes. The side appeared to be struggling to cope under former boss Luiz Felipe Scolari but the Dutchman has made a massive difference.
Hiddink insists that he will walk away from Chelsea at the end of the season and return to coaching Russia on a full-time basis but Essien says the team are desperate to send him on his way with a trophy.
“He knows how to talk to his players and he has his own style which is very different to the others I’ve played for here,” revealed Essien.
“Hopefully we can win something for him before he leaves. But we’ll see what happens, We’ve got some really big games coming up that aren’t going to be easy.
“We’ll just have to try our best and make sure we win those games.”
Meanwhile, captain John Terry, suspended for the return leg, has warned his team-mates about becoming complacent against Rafael Benitez’s Reds.
Chelsea were 4-0 up with 20 minutes remaining against Bolton but then conceded three goals in nine amazing minutes to provide them with a timely wake-up call.
“Let’s get something straight,” declared Terry. “Liverpool won the Champions League by coming back from three goals down at half-time in the 2005 final, so there must be no complacency.
“It was a fantastic performance by us at Anfield to score three away goals but it hasn’t won us the tie. We have to give another similar performance next Tuesday to do that.”