LONDON // Chelsea's bid to defend their Premier League title will receive a major boost next week after the club completed the signing of Ramires, the Brazil international midfielder, from Benfica last night. According to compatriot Denilson, the 22-year-old Arsenal midfielder, Ramires can become Chelsea's version of Steven Gerrard. Denilson, who is aiming to hold down a regular spot in the Arsenal side as Cesc Fabregas's midfield partner, believes Ramires could give Chelsea the edge over the Gunners and the rest of the Premier League title contenders.
"Ramires is a wonderful player who can do for Chelsea what Steve Gerrard does for Liverpool," Denilson said. "He can break up play, but he can also tuck in behind the main striker like [Didier] Drogba, and come through and score goals just as Gerrard does for Liverpool. "Although, of course, Frank Lampard has done a great job on that front for Chelsea so maybe for a while Ramires might have to take a bit of a back seat. But he is a dynamic player and combined with Lampard and Michael Essien he will make Chelsea's midfield very strong.
"Chelsea once tried to sign Gerrard and put him alongside Lampard. They will have that partnership but now the name is Ramires. Now that we know Cesc Fabregas is staying with us at Arsenal we have a strong feeling we will challenge for the title. "But Chelsea are the champions and the arrival of a player of the class of Ramires can only make them a stronger team. For me personally his arrival in England is an inspiration.
"He is just one year older [then I am] but is in the senior national side. I now have to prove my credentials and maybe challenge for his place at the next World Cup in our own country." The £18 million (Dh104.5m) signing of Ramires from Portuguese club Benfica should be sealed to today. Ahead of today's opening match against West Bromwich Albion, Carlo Ancelloti, the Chelsea manager, said: "We believe we have sorted out the work permit situation and he is due to undergo a medical.
"I hope Ramires will be the future of Chelsea." Lampard could miss the game after injuring his ankle on international duty with England. Roberto Di Matteo, the West Brom manager, could not have been handed a more daunting introduction to Premier League management than today's trip to Stamford Bridge. As if that was not bad enough for Di Matteo, his side's next three away matches are at Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United. Despite that tough start, Di Matteo, twice an FA Cup winner with Chelsea, is upbeat in his ambition for Albion to get rid of their reputation as a yo-yo club after being promoted or relegated six times in the last nine seasons. Di Matteo said: "I want to stay positive and believe we can stay up and remain up in the future. That is my personal aim, the players' aim and the club's aim." The Italian, making his first return to Stamford Bridge in a professional capacity, admitted: "As they are champions, I guess it is going to be a difficult game for us. But it would be tough for any club to face Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United in your first four away games. "We are in for a difficult time but the season is 38 games and it will not finish after those four away matches." firstname.lastname@example.org
Key battle Didier Drogba v Scott Carson Drogba is not fully fit but should start for Chelsea. West Brom need keeper Carson on top form to take anything from the game. Previous meetings West Brom lost the last meeting, in 2008, 2-0 and have not won at Stamford Bridge since 1978. Line-ups (Probable) Chelsea (4-3-3) Hilario; Ferreira, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole; Mikel, Essien, Benayoun; Anelka, Drogba, Malouda. West Brom (4-5-1) Carson; S Reid, Olsson, Tamas, Shorey; Morrison, Mulumba, Dorrans, Brunt, Cech; Miller
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