Ivanovic: Chelsea love the big games

Branislav Ivanovic believes Chelsea are a side which relish the big matches and has called on his team-mates to show fight against Liverpool and Luis Suarez.

Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic

Chelsea's best performances have come in key contests this season against Bayern Munich and Manchester City, in particular. Ivanovic will be hoping for more of the same in Sunday's clash at Stamford Bridge. 

In the Blues' most recent meeting with Liverpool, in April, Suarez bit Ivanovic on the arm before scoring a 97th-minute equaliser.

Ivanovic, a no-nonsense, physical defender, moved on from the biting incident swiftly, but Suarez was suspended, although his 10-match ban has done little to halt his remarkable form.

"It's going to be a very important game for us, one of the deciding games this season,'' Ivanovic told Chelsea TV.

"We must be ready for the big fight. Our team likes to play big games and big challenges.

"I hope we're going to be ready for Liverpool, because it's a massive, massive game for us.''

Arsenal travel to Newcastle on Sunday, and Per Mertesacker is ready for a test against the side who defeated Stoke 5-1 at the weekend.

The German defender felt the Gunners squad showed great character to come through what was a testing encounter against Sam Allardyce's relegation battlers to win 3-1 on Boxing Day.

"During the game we always believed in our strengths," the German international said.

"We want to go on another good run so at the minute we are really proud we are really proud that we came back against West Ham and it shows our character."

Elsewhere, Manchester City will host Crystal Palace fresh from a 2-1 win over Liverpool, and defender Pablo Zabaleta knows the second half of the season is when Manuel Pellegrini's side have to step up their game.

"It was a massive win. We played against a very strong side in Liverpool and it was really important to get three points and keep the team winning their home games. I think we did a good job,'' Zabaleta said, after City climbed into second place in the league standings.

"We have to push even more now. We know December and January is one of the key points for the big teams to make a difference because we play many games and you need to try to keep winning."

Meanwhile, David Moyes' Manchester United travel to Norwich after coming back from 2-0 down at Hull to win 3-2.

Chris Smalling, who scored for the Red Devils in that match, is approaching the game at Carrow Road with confidence.

He said: "I think (Hull) is going to be a pivotal three points and it keeps us on this run as well, which is important because it is difficult when you have to play again two days later.

"It's always easier when you go into a game off the back of a win.

"We had belief going into this game, and after this win we'll continue to pick it up. I think we've had our setbacks this season, we need to make sure that we don't have any more and that we keep winning."

In the other games, struggling West Ham will face managerless West Brom, while Aston Villa will look to bounce back from their 1-0 home defeat by Palace when they take on Swansea, while Hull are at home to Fulham.

Cardiff, who saw manager Malky Mackay sacked on Friday, host bottom-of-the-pile Sunderland, while Sunday sees Everton play Southampton and Tottenham face Stoke at White Hart Lane.

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