Belfast Telegraph

Mikel takes up Phil’s challenge

John Mikel Obi insists he is relishing the pressure of anchoring Chelsea’s midfield as the Blues look to continue their 100% away record at the expense of Everton tonight (SKY Sports 8.00pm).

Chelsea’s record-breaking away run is in stark contrast to their form at Stamford Bridge.

Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side have dropped 14 points at home so far this season - suffering defeats against Liverpool and Arsenal and draws against West Ham, Tottenham, Manchester United and Newcastle.

Scolari points to injuries and suspensions as one of the main reasons for their poor displays at home. The loss of powerhouse midfielder Michael Essien with a serious knee injury has certainly been a factor.

But the man handed the role of replacing him has risen to the challenge in style and Mikel has cemented his place under the Brazilian coach.

The 21-year-old Nigerian is now determined to repay Scolari’s faith in him by helping the club to win some silverware this season.

"The coach said to me ’you are this team - when you don’t play well, the team doesn’t play well’," said Mikel. So I felt big, big pressure after that but it means I go out there to make sure the team plays well and wins.

"All I have to do is keep going and keep doing the right things and at the end of the season, I can look back and say ’I didn’t disappoint him’.

"Football is all about belief and I think Scolari has belief in me."

Chelsea will face Everton with no fresh injury woes and Scolari certain to stick with Nicolas Anelka as the lone striker.

On the training ground, the Brazilian coach has been trying to establish a way of accommodating Didier Drogba and Anelka in the same side.

But the fruits of those labours are unlikely to be seen tonight. The Boxing Day home clash against West Brom looks more likely.

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