Chelsea v Liverpool: Branislav Ivanovic feels clash with Reds could be one of the deciding fixtures in the race for the Premier League

Liverpool lost their place at the top after defeat to Manchester City on Boxing Day and defeat for either side would leave them off the pace of the Citizens and current leaders Arsenal

Branislav Ivanovic believes Chelsea are a side which relish big matches and has called on his team-mates to show fight in Sunday's Barclays Premier League clash with Liverpool and Luis Suarez.

Chelsea's best performances have come in key contests this season: against Bayern Munich and Manchester City, in particular.

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 this season.

"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."

Jose Mourinho has repeatedly bemoaned the shortcomings of his strikers this season and would love someone as prolific as Suarez.

The Uruguayan has netted 19 goals in 13 Premier League games; Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto'o and Demba Ba have scored five times between them.

Mourinho gave nothing away on how Chelsea would attempt to stop Suarez, but joked he hoped the former Ajax man would not be available to play at Stamford Bridge.

"Maybe Suarez (against Manchester City) got a little injury," Mourinho said.

"I'm not asking for a big injury. A little injury to stop him playing for four days."

Mourinho and Ivanovic will be boosted by Chelsea's improved defensive record ahead of the Reds test.

The 1-0 Boxing Day defeat of Swansea, following on from Monday's goalless draw at Arsenal, means for the first time this season the Blues have recorded consecutive clean sheets in the Premier League.

"It's very important for this part of the season to play defensively well," Ivanovic added.

"We have done in the last two games and it's good for us. We have to keep going. We have to defend as a team.

"For us it's very important to keep on this way and to try to fight as a team."

Mourinho enjoyed a famous rivalry with Rafael Benitez in this fixture during his first spell in charge of Chelsea, with Champions League contests among the most memorable fixtures.

In a competitive Premier League, Mourinho knows the old cliche about no easy games rings true, but there are some games which are more difficult than others.

Mourinho added: "Every game is hard. The difference is some teams are bigger. Bigger name, bigger impact: Man City-Liverpool, Chelsea-Liverpool, Chelsea-Arsenal.

"But every game is difficult. The last two matches we played (at home), Swansea and Crystal Palace: 1-0, 2-1. You have to give everything to win matches."

Eden Hazard scored the only goal against Swansea as Chelsea again failed to add to their advantage.

Mourinho felt the Belgium forward should have earned a penalty when tackled by Jordi Amat in the second half and that Hazard's trickery is deserving of more spot-kicks.

"I think that happens a lot, that Eden Hazard beats people, goes into the box and is not getting penalties in situations like that," Mourinho said.

The Portuguese praised Eto'o, despite the striker missing two clear chances to net his third Premier League goal of the season.

"He did well," Mourinho added.

"I want that feeling that my strikers are working to have chances.

"I want them to shoot, I want the goalkeeper to save, the ball to hit the post."

Chelsea face Liverpool without midfielder Ramires, who is suspended for one match after picking up a fifth yellow card of the season against Swansea. Frank Lampard will almost certainly take his place.

Further changes are likely, with the possibility Cesar Azpilicueta and Gary Cahill will return in defence in place of Ashley Cole and David Luiz.

John Terry is in line to make his 600th Chelsea appearance and Ivanovic will start at right-back, having missed only Capital One Cup matches this season in an illustration of his importance to Chelsea and Mourinho.

Ivanovic added: "I try to do my best every game and if the manager selects me for every game, I'm happy."

PA

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