Steve Bruce is convinced Sunderland striker Kenwyne Jones can see off Didier Drogba in the battle of the big men tonight.
Bruce threw Jones into win at Bolton at the weekend despite a marathon week of cross Atlantic flights on international duty and he produced a dominant display.
And pitted against the Chelsea man at the Stadium of Light tonight, Bruce says Jones can reach a new level after his performances last season tailed off.
Bruce said: “The kid’s got a bit of Drogba about him, hasn’t he? If you catch him on his day then because of his physical presence, pace and power, he’s unplayable.
“There’s not many people physically as big as the boy.
“What happened towards the end of last season I’m not really interested in. It’s how I can get the best out of him. Certainly I think Benty and Fraizer Campbell will help because their work-rate is phenomenal.
“I think the big thing against him last year was he missed the first three or four months of the season recovering from his knee injury. Players who are always playing catch-up struggle.
“He’s come back and missed the first week with a bit of a groin (strain) but after that he’s been absolutely excellent.
“I can’t think of anybody better in the air not just because of his size but he can jump as well. All the ingredients are there with Kenwyne, it’s how we get the best out of him, how he gets the best out of himself. We’ll see how far he goes in his career.
“Kenwyne will have to do it because if he doesn’t do it for me, he doesn’t play. It’s as simple as that. I don’t stand on ceremony, they have to go and give everything they’ve got. He certainly did that on Saturday - at the end he couldn’t move, he’d hit a standstill!“
Sunderland is full of optimism following a solid pre-season and Darren Bent’s winner at the Reebok. But his reshaped squad have to overcome a psychological barrier if they are to push into the top ten.
Last season the Black Cats lost ten games at the Stadium of Light, with only Hull having a worse record. Bruce now wants stronger characters to stand up to the pressures of 40,000-plus attendances.
He added: “You have to have a certain player to play in front of a big crowd, an expectant crowd. You have to have big personalities. That’s what we need to improve on.
“That’s the reason why I’m here. I hope we can go and produce a performance like we did on Saturday and the 5,000 who went really appreciated it. You could see from the response at the end they could see the team had given everything they’d got.
“I believe the North East is a particularly working-class area and they want to see their team have a go and make sure there are no prima-donnas and there’s no pet lips. They want to be able to associate with their team and I’m convinced we can show them we’re better prepared.”
Bruce added: “We have one of the giants of Europe coming here and we have to be at our best. Is it a good time to be playing Chelsea? We don’t know.
“It may have taken them to the last minute to beat Hull but I have seen the stats and they had 26 shots on goal which you know when you are playing one of the top teams, they have people who can hurt you. And Chelsea always go to the wire and it is something that makes them a great team.
“Chelsea have that quality with Drogba, Anelka, Lampard. They can all win a game and that is why they are top players and why they play for Chelsea. It is in bred in them - top players go to the wire.”.