Chelsea take heart from United slip

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The Independent Football

Chelsea's chance to have a direct effect on Manchester United's season has passed but when the squad gathered at their hotel on Saturday lunchtime, they watched a Liverpool team who showed others the way. The Chelsea winger Florent Malouda said Rafael Benitez's team had demonstrated that the champions were not unbeatable and others could take their lead.

It might be wishful thinking from a team who scraped a 1-1 draw with United at home in September before rolling over 3-0 at Old Trafford in January. Coming from Malouda, who is hardly the type to lead the charge into battle, it sounds even flakier but there is no doubt that life looks a lot rosier for Chelsea, who are in second place on goal difference above Liverpool and unbeaten in seven games under their new manager Guus Hiddink.

Malouda, a second-half substitute in the win over Manchester City on Sunday, said: "When you see the performance of Liverpool it was a really high intensity game.

"Everyone knows that to beat United you have to be at this level of performance. It won't be easy to beat United but it shows it is possible. We know they have a really strong team and a really strong squad.

"They [United] can win everything but this is the first defeat of the season at Old Trafford so that means a lot. The most important thing about this win is that it can give hope to the other teams who will play United. Even if we win all our games we have to hope that United fail and lose points, so that is important for all the Premier League."

Given that the toughest opponents United have to face in their 10-game run-in are all at home – Aston Villa, Tottenham, Manchester City and Arsenal – Chelsea must hope that the opposition have been paying very close attention to Liverpool's performance.

John Terry said: "United have good players, but after a big defeat like they had last weekend you never know how they're going to react. Hopefully, they're going to go on a bad run, but the main thing for us to do is to keep winning and applying the pressure."

Didier Drogba had a scan on his troublesome knee injury yesterday and no serious damage was found. He should be back in training by the end of the week.

Drogba's return to form under Hiddink has not prompted the club to push him on signing a new contract. The 31-year-old will have one year left on his deal come summer and, despite his often-repeated desire to leave, it would now seem he is willing to sign another deal.

There are no such doubts over Michael Essien, contracted until 2013 and the goalscoring matchwinner against City in only his third game since a seven-month lay-off with a ruptured cruciate ligament.

Terry said: "Only Michael could do that. Only he could come back and after two games have scored two goals and play as well as he has been. After so long out you think it would take three or four games to find his feet, but he is an absolute machine. You see him working his socks off for six months in the gym and it pays dividends. He is brilliant and it's great to have him back."