SUNDERLAND, United Kingdom, Jan 31, 2011 (AFP) - Chelsea travel to Sunderland on Tuesday desperate to avenge their morale-sapping 3-0 defeat to Steve Bruce's side at Stamford Bridge in November.
Chelsea will kick off at the Stadium of Light in fourth place and 10 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester United, who are at home to Aston Villa at the same time.
The trip to the north east is one of the tougher assignments of the campaign, with the Black Cats currently just two places and four points behind Carlo Ancelotti's side.
Bruce's team pulled off one of the performances of the season so far when they won at Stamford Bridge - a result that made up for a 7-2 thrashing there the previous season.
Defender Branislav Ivanovic insists he and the Chelsea team have improved since the November loss, which began a six-game, win-less sequence that left the champions trailing United.
|Chelsea's Didier Drogba (L) gestures during the FA Cup fourth round football match between Everton and Chelsea at Goodison Park in Liverpool on January 29, 2011. AFP|
Chelsea, who drew 1-1 at Everton in the FA Cup on Saturday, have won their last two Premier League games and the most recent, at Bolton, was an emphatic 4-0 victory.
"The important thing is to be winning and being back in a good way, trying to win more games," Ivanovic said.
"I know the league better now and I understand the football better.
"The good thing is that in our team you know what you have to do and every single player knows how to play to win games."
Chelsea go into the game having spent the weekend trying to prise Fernando Torres away from Liverpool.
With Chelsea desperately trying to persuade the Anfield side to accept a British transfer record fee of around 50 million pounds for the Spain striker, it would have been easy for the team to take their eye off the ball.
Chelsea had until 2300GMT on Monday to seal a mega-money deal for Torres, who has had a transfer request rejected as he tries to force Liverpool's hand.
Chelsea's England midfielder Frank Lampard said he was happy to see world class players arrive at Stamford Bridge.
"Players of a top, top level and world-class players will always help your squad," he said.
"It remains to be seen what happens with the club - who they bring in and who the manager wants to bring in - but they'll always be very welcome from us."
Tuesday's match will be Sunderland's first in front of their own supporters since top scorer Darren Bent was sold to Aston Villa for 24 million pounds.
Bruce has already spent some of that cash on Sulley Muntari and Stephane Sessegnon, who will both be expected to make their debuts.
Midfielder Sessegnon has joined from Paris Saint Germain for a fee of around six million pounds, while former Portsmouth winger Muntari has been borrowed from Inter Milan for the rest of the season.
"I can't wait to start in the Premier League. It has been my dream for years," said Benin international Sessegnon, 26.
"The Premier League is the best league to play in; I have always wanted to play here."
And Muntari vowed to help his new club qualify for the Europa League next season.
"I will just try to do my best to help Sunderland go further because they are doing well," he said. "I hope I can help the club go to Europe."
Bruce has also had to contend with speculation that midfielder Jordan Henderson will leave for Manchester United but vowed it would not distract his players.
"All that people have wanted to talk about this week is transfers and I can understand that," he said.
"But I leave a lot of that work to the chairman and the chief executive and their team and try to concentrate on the football as much as possible."