COMPETITION for forward places is only likely to get fiercer at Chelsea, but Nicolas Anelka and Daniel Sturridge, two of the men whose places look most under threat, insist they are in no mood to step aside.
Anelka’s place has been increasingly under threat since January, when Roman Abramovich sanctioned the £50m signing of Fernando Torres, and the ageing Frenchman faces a battle to convince new manager Andre Villas-Boas he should start.
Sturridge, meanwhile, enjoyed a revelatory spell on loan at Bolton late last season, scoring eight goals in 11 starts, yet the indications are that the England Under-21 star could be farmed out once again.
Torres and long-term kingpin Didier Drogba are both ahead of that pair in the queue, while there could soon be another name jostling for position in Romelu Lukaku.
The strapping Belgian youngster, 18, has been courted by Europe’s top clubs for years already and Chelsea are believed to have made their move by lodging a formal bid with Anderlecht yesterday.
Yet both Anelka, 32, and Sturridge, 21, sound more determined than ever to prove they deserve to be at the forefront of a 4-3-3 formation – and a new era under Villas-Boas.
“I like a challenge,” said Anelka. “It is all part of the game and when you play at a club like Chelsea you have to be ready to meet the challenge from wherever it comes. Every single member of this squad will have to fight to play and I am ready to fight.”
Sturridge, speaking ahead of this afternoon’s match against a Malaysia XI in Kuala Lumpur, the first of their four-game trip to Asia, said: “I’m here training in pre-season and looking forward to the start of the new season, where I can show everybody what I am capable of doing. The past is the past, so everyone has got to fight for their place.”
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