German star Ballack is back and ready to bolster Chelsea's challenge

Michael Ballack is no stranger to coming back from injury just in time to help Chelsea out of a crisis. Ballack is in line to make the squad tomorrow for the first time since surgery on his foot last month and could feature in the clash at West Brom.

During his absence Chelsea have lost three games in six, including in the Carling Cup to Burnley, so the 32-year-old is hoping to galvanise the team on his return in much the same way he did last December. 

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Enlarge   Frank Lampard  and Ballack (back row, centre) at the  launch of the 'Blue Pitches' initiative at  Battersea Park School

Childs' play: Frank Lampard and Ballack (back row, centre) at the launch of the 'Blue Pitches' initiative at Battersea Park School

He sat out the first four months of the previous campaign due to an ankle injury and in his final game on the sidelines saw Chelsea lose a crucial match at Arsenal.

The German international made his comeback in the next game and his impact was immediate as they beat Liverpool in the 2-0 Carling Cup. 

Chelsea then remained unbeaten in the League for the rest of the season, with the midfielder becoming one of the club's most influential players on the pitch. With Chelsea top of the Premier League and their Champions League group, Ballack believes confidence is not an issue despite the Cup exit.

He said: 'We didn't just lose a game - we are out of the Cup. When you lose a League game you can repair it; in the Cup you can't. It's a little frustrating but we have to keep going. We are in a good position in the League.

Michael Ballack of Chelsea

Up and running: Ballack is set to return from injury in Chelsea's clash at West Brom

'When you compare where we were in the League now to last season, we were six or seven points behind and it's always difficult to close the gap. Now we stay on top and it's good for the confidence to play games and know that when we win we're still on top. Even in the Champions League we're in a good position, so that should be our motivation.'

What has been most worrying for fans has been that two of their defeats - in the Cup and against Liverpool in the League - have been at previously impregnable Stamford Bridge, which is in stark contrast to their away form in the top flight, where they are unbeaten.

Ballack can't explain the discrepancy, but insists there is no reason to panic. He added: 'I don't think we have lost the image of our ground being a fortress. We have just lost two games. Of course it's not nice, but we knew the day would come when we would lose a game there.

'I think the team looks relaxed away from home and are enjoying their football. We've scored five and three away, it shows the team don't want to stop at 1-0. We want to go for the second and third.'

Ballack has set his sights on becoming a Chelsea legend by the time he retires.

He only has one Carling Cup winners' medal to show for his time in south-west London, but said: 'It's always good to look back at the other clubs I have played for - Kaiserslauten, Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich - and they miss you.

'When I'm retired and maybe start to look back in 10 years' time it will be fantastic if the Chelsea fans remember me.

'When I first moved here it was not easy and last season I had a long injury but when I'm on the pitch, I feel the support from the fans and all around the club. It is important to feel that as a player in the not so good times. To win something you have to play good football and that is what I want to do at Chelsea.'

Chelsea will be without Alex (hamstring), Franco di Santo (hamstring) and Juliano Belletti (thigh) tomorrow but Joe Cole and Ashley Cole may return.

Ballack was speaking at the launch of the first of four 'Blue Pitches' at Battersea Park School, which is part of Chelsea and adidas' investment in the local area. The all-weather surface will be free to use and can incorporate football, basketball and tennis.

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