Brighton & Hove Albion defender Leon Balogun feels the side can head into Sunday’s Premier League clash against Chelsea with a sense of freedom.
The Nigeria international explained the Blues will go into the game as strong favourites, but encouraged his team-mates to rise to their underdog tag, as shown in the victory over Manchester United in August.
He said, “They’re expected to win against a side like us and no-one is expecting anything other than a victory for Chelsea.
“The most they’ll expect from us is that we’ll give them a hard game and still not get anything from it, which takes a lot of pressure away from us.
“We can play with a free mind and try to disrupt their game as much as possible. We beat Man United at home, and shows that we’re capable of beating a top team.
“There’s still pressure in every game you play, but there’s not the same expectation on us compared to if we were playing the likes of Huddersfield or Burnley.”
The defender faces the prospect of playing against another of the world’s finest players in Eden Hazard, and compared it to the challenge of facing Lionel Messi at the World Cup.
“They’re slightly different players, but are both outstanding. If you want to stop players like that, then you need a strong collective effort from the team.
“If you’re facing either of them one on one, you have to be patient and don’t fall for every one of their movements.
“You have to be sharp, but players of that quality can react to anything you do. You have to stay tight and don’t give them the licence to play their game.
“Mainly it’s about defending against them collectively, and delay them making the pass or taking the shot they want.”
Balogun also spoke about the strengths of this current Chelsea side in more detail, and explained that their win over Manchester City added further credence to their title aspirations.
“They have a lot of quality technically, but they are also able to adapt and make the game hard and physical.
“They have all these qualities and that’s why they’re near the top of the table. To beat Man City, you have to be able to withstand a lot of pressure, and they had the composure to do that and even force their game upon them at times.
“They are a top-class team worthy of fighting for the title and that’s why they’re up there.”