Ivanovic wants to build momentum
Branislav Ivanovic hopes Chelsea can carry the momentum of successive wins for the first time since December into Sunday's FA Cup fourth-round replay with Brentford and then the Barclays Premier League.
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Ivanovic made his 200th Blues appearance in Thursday night's 1-0 unconvincing Europa League last-32 first-leg win at Sparta Prague as boss Rafael Benitez and Fernando Torres' blushes were spared by a delightful 82nd-minute goal from substitute Oscar, his sixth in Europe this term.
Serbia defender Ivanovic, who started ahead of club captain John Terry, now hopes Chelsea can advance in knockout competitions at Stamford Bridge at the expense of npower League One Brentford and Sparta, before travelling to Manchester City in the Premier League.
"It was a very important game for us to win and to keep the momentum going," said Ivanovic, after Chelsea followed up the 4-1 Premier League defeat of Wigan.
"(The lack of consistency) has been very difficult for us, but we are a team that can build and we have to think about this.
"We have to improve every game, every session and we hope it will be fine in the end.
"It was our first game in the Europa League and it was difficult, but we got the goal and that gave us the advantage.
"Sometimes in a different competition you're not sure what to expect in the games, but now we know much better. It was a good win for us."
Chelsea were also up against an unknown quantity at Brentford in January in the first west London derby between the sides in 63 years.
The Blues were indebted to Torres for scoring the equaliser in the 2-2 draw at Griffin Park.
However, that was the Spaniard's only goal in his last 13 appearances and Benitez was again forced to defend his compatriot after the Sparta contest.
Demba Ba and Victor Moses will come into contention for the clash with the Bees.
Benitez and Torres were again subject to the fans' ire throughout the win at the Generali Arena, but there could be a brighter outlook come the end of February, if the Blues progress in the knockout competitions and win at Manchester City, cutting the deficit to the second-placed Premier League champions to one point.
Consistency is key for Ivanovic.
"We (like City) also go up and down this season," he said.
"We have to be very careful that we take as many points as possible from every game in the league from now on.
"We have to look at ourselves and our performance. If we can make our play in the next few games better, it is possible (to overtake them in second place)."
Chelsea have often bounced back from poor starts to finish the season strongly, including last term, when they won the FA Cup and Champions League under a caretaker coach in Roberto Di Matteo.
This season, with United 16 points clear, the FA Cup and Europa League are realistically the only competitions the Blues can win, having started the season with seven trophy opportunities.
"We have had a lot of games," Ivanovic said.
"We have played every three days for the last four months. This has made it difficult. Sometimes you're not recovered and don't have a big enough squad.
"All these things affect results, but you have to be stronger. Now we have some time, we can recover and play our games with a better performance."
Chelsea will be boosted by the availability of key players against Brentford, with returns possible for David Luiz, back from suspension, Ba, ineligible in Europe, and Moses and John Obi Mikel, who were rested following their African Nations Cup win with Nigeria.
Terry could also play after being an unused substitute in the Czech Republic.
The 32-year-old has started just twice under Benitez due to a knee injury sustained before the Spaniard's appointment.
Terry will not be treated like Ledley King was at Tottenham; he has been told by interim boss Benitez that he must prove his fitness in training to be considered for selection.
Ashley Cole could also return after being, like Terry, left on the bench in Prague due to a cold, with Ryan Bertrand taking his place.
Bertrand told chelseafc.com: "To get the clean sheet was a massive positive and even though we only scored one we created quite a few chances and I think we were unlucky not to score two or three. It sets us up well for the second leg."