The scorer of 12 Premier League goals and another in the 4-0 defeat of FC Girondins de Bordeaux on Matchday 1, Nicolas Anelka is expecting a far tougher night than that September stroll as Chelsea FC travel to France.
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When Edwin van der Sar saved Nicolas Anelka's penalty to win the UEFA Champions League for Manchester United FC in May, the Frenchman could have been forgiven for feeling his spell at Chelsea FC was jinxed. The former Arsenal FC forward had been used sparingly following his January move from Bolton Wanderers FC, and when he did play it was often out of position on the right flank.
Six months on, however, much has changed. Anelka has become Chelsea's talisman under new manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, surging to the top of the Premier League scoring charts with 12 goals and establishing himself as one of the team's key components. Indeed, the 29-year-old will be the man most feared by FC Girondins de Bordeaux in Wednesday's vital UEFA Champions League Group A game, having already terrorised the Ligue 1 club's back four in September's 4-0 win in London.
Competition for places
Yet competition for places remains intense under Scolari, and Anelka is refusing to let recent success go to his head. "I don't know if I'm the first-choice striker or not," said the French international, who got the last of Chelsea's four goals at Stamford Bridge on Matchday 1. "It's not for me to say. When the manager asks me to play, I play. I try to give my best on the pitch, I try to score goals. Then it's up to the manager to decide."
Despite the return to fitness of Didier Drogba, his team-mate's prolific form has left Scolari with little choice and so the Brazilian seems certain to keep faith with Anelka at Stade Chaban-Delmas. Given the ease with which the Blues brushed Bordeaux aside in the reverse fixture, the English side head to south-west France in optimistic mood, although Anelka issues a word of caution. "I'm expecting a very difficult game," he said. "Bordeaux are a good side and both teams need points. I think it's going to be very tight."
Chelsea were beaten at AS Roma last time out and while they retain pole position, another defeat could seriously jeopardise their chances. Anelka, a former Paris Saint-Germain FC player, still keeps a close eye on Ligue 1 and reckons Laurent Blanc's men deserve respect. "I don't think it'll be like the first game," he said. "Bordeaux have come back strongly with two wins [against CFR Cluj 1907]. They play good, passing football. I don't fear one of their players in particular. My biggest fear is we could lose."
One man Anelka knows well is Bordeaux's French international Alou Diarra. The Chelsea attacker may have enjoyed the bragging rights at France get-togethers, but Diarra is determined to gain revenge. "This is an opportunity to make amends for the poor performance in London," said the 27-year-old midfielder, who will captain Les Girondins in the absence of injured goalkeeper Ulrich Ramé. "We failed to match Chelsea in every department over there. But we've got ourselves back in contention. We're only a point behind Chelsea and we must do everything to get a result."