Ballack: Sturridge can fill the void
Michael Ballack says Daniel Sturridge can fill the void left by
Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou when they go on African Nations Cup
Sturridge came off the bench for his third Chelsea appearance
against West Ham in the 1-1 draw at Upton Park on Sunday.
And German midfielder Ballack believes the youngster must
step up to help Nicolas Anelka, who suffered a minor muscle strain
last week, as Chelsea battle to preserve their four-point lead at
the top of the Premier League.
It is a tough ask of the former Manchester City and England
Under-21 star, whose claim to fame is that he is the only player
ever to score in the FA Youth Cup, FA Cup and Premier League in the
But Ballack said: “Yes he can (step up)- he has to. We will
miss Didier as well as Kalou. We have to hope that nothing happens
to Nico (Anelka)because he will be our main striker. He has not
been in good shape this past week but hopefully he can recover and
there will be no other injuries.
“Daniel is still a young player but now he has a big chance
to show his qualities, which he has – that’s why he’s at Chelsea.
“He has been a bit unlucky with injury, but he has come back
at the right time and has an opportunity to get more games and help
Chelsea will also lose Michael Essien and John Obi Mikel for
the African Nations Cup in Angola which runs from January 10-31.
It could be a defining part of their season, although the
good news is that they do not play any of the Big Four during that
“Of course it’s a problem if you lose players of that
quality,” said Ballack. “They would be a big miss for us if they
were gone a week, but they are away for four to five weeks.
“But we have handled this in the past and hopefully the
players behind them, like Daniel, have the quality to close this
gap. They have to be confident and I’m sure we will cope with this
First, they have a tough away trip to in-form Birmingham on
Saturday before they host Fulham, 3-0 conquerors of Manchester
United, on Monday.
Ballack, however, is confident the team can cope with the
pressure of being front-runners.
He said: “If someone told us we’d be four points clear at
Christmas at the beginning of the season, we’d have taken it for
“We have to keep our focus because we have a difficult time
ahead with two games in three days.
“It’s hard in this period, but we have shown before that we
can handle the situation, especially with our squad, so hopefully
we can take the three points in those games.
“I can’t remember being top at Christmas before and obviously
it’s better if you are leading the table rather than chasing
because if you’re behind you have to keep winning to put the
pressure on the team at the top.
“But it’s still open. A lot of teams are doing well behind us
like Arsenal, Aston Villa and of course Manchester United.”