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After a week in which Chelsea FC were eliminated from a domestic cup competition and had their Premier League lead reduced to two points, Michael Essien is more eager than ever to finish UEFA Champions League Group D on a high against APOEL FC.
A penalty shoot-out loss to Blackburn Rovers FC in the League Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday was followed by a 2-1 weekend defeat at Manchester City FC that allowed Manchester United FC to cut Chelsea's championship advantage. The London club are now braced for the traditional flurry of holiday fixtures in England, but while they have already secured top spot in their UEFA Champions League section, the visit of Cypriot titleholders APOEL will not be without significance. Essien, in particular, is desperate to avoid a hat-trick of setbacks.
"We've already qualified and as players we always go out there to try and win games," said the midfielder, who is one booking away from a suspension for the opening leg of Chelsea's first knockout round tie. "We've lost two in a row and we don't want to make it three, so we have to do everything to win the game. We didn't play badly [on Saturday]; I think we had a very good game. We were just unlucky to lose, but that's part of the game – you win some, you lose some. It's finished now and we have to look forward and think about the games ahead."
The first of those is against an APOEL team which provided Chelsea with a few late scares in the Blues' 1-0 away victory on Matchday 2, and who must win and hope Club Atlético de Madrid do not defeat FC Porto in order to qualify for the UEFA Europa League. "The game is going to be another difficult one because they gave us a very tough time in the first game, so we're expecting the same," Essien said. "Even though we are through, we have to go out there and try to win it."
World Cup draw
After what he hopes will be a successful club campaign, Essien can also look forward to appearing for Ghana at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, where the 27-year-old will encounter a Germany team in the group stage likely to feature Chelsea midfield partner Michael Ballack. "That's a long way away, but we saw the draw and we're very happy we're going to come up against each other," said Essien. "There's a long way to go until then, though: it's not until June."
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