LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 08: Ramires of Chelsea celebrates as he scores their third goal during the FA Cup sponsored by Budweiser Third Round match between Chelsea and Portsmouth at Stamford Bridge on January 8, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
If you were to ask your average football fan who Chelsea's top player has been over the course of the 2011/12 season, they'd probably come up with Juan Mata. While that could well be true, there's another candidate who deserves a place fairly high up that particular list - Ramires. Without the midfielder, Chelsea have looked rather aimless, and although Michael Essien's doing a fine job since his return from injury, he doesn't have Ramires's ability to burst forward at speed, a weapon Chelsea have really missed.
Since Ramires's MCL injury against Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road, Chelsea have played three matches. They've won none of them, picking up two points from a possible nine. His absence was most keenly felt during the 3-3 draw against Manchester United, where a fit Ramires would be the man picking up Paul Scholes in the second half, but there's no doubt he'd have helped against Swansea City as well (I don't think anything would have helped at Goodison Park!).
Anyway, Ramires. Ramires is back for Birmingham City. I don't really want to use him for a full ninety minutes on Saturday with Napoli coming up midweek, but I'd be fine with him playing 30 minutes at the Bridge. His return is really really good news, so let's all have some sort of Ramires party to celebrate. You go first.
Nobody else is back. Salomon Kalou and Didier Drogba have returned from the Africa Cup of Nations but haven't been in training for long enough to feature against Birmingham, John Terry is scheduled to return to full training tomorrow and won't be able to participate in two games in such quick succession, and Ashley Cole is '50/50' to return by next week. That means... more Jose Bosingwa, most likely. What fun.
Anyway, the squad should be at full strength by next weekend. Not a moment too soon.