Antti Niemi has declared that he will be ready for Didier Drogba when Fulham face Chelsea on Saturday.
Drogba is the Premiership’s top scorer this season and has left many goalkeepers powerless with some stunning goals, but Niemi believes he knows the secret of the Ivorian’s success.
Niemi is full of respect for Drogba but is determined not to let him score with one of his trademark early efforts.
“Didier Drogba is the man we have to fear most, given his scoring record. He’s been flying all season and looks a much-improved striker compared to last season,” praised Niemi.
“As a goalkeeper I’ll be watching for Drogba’s early strikes, as he’s been hitting the ball very quickly after controlling the ball.
“That catches people out, especially with this season’s yellow ball, which flies around all over the place.
“It’s sometimes almost impossible to save those early strikes but I’ll be as ready to read him as I possibly can be.”
Niemi feels Fulham can take something from their trip to Stamford Bridge if they use the same tough-tackling tactics they employed against The Blues in September, when two late goals from Frank Lampard swung a tight game.
“We lost 2-0 but we unsettled them during the 90 minutes, and that’s given us reason for optimism,” he explained.
Chelsea are currently four points behind Premiership leaders Manchester United but Niemi expects the title race will go to the wire this season.
“Irrespective of our result against Chelsea, I feel they and United will battle it out right to the end,” he predicted.
“Chelsea haven’t got worse but Manchester United have got a lot, lot better.”