Chelsea captain John Terry has heaped praise on Nemanja Matic, claiming the Serbian midfielder is like the club's 'new Claude Makelele', adding that the strength and depth of the first-team squad at Stamford Bridge is the main reason behind their impressive start to the campaign.
The 26-year-old has played an integral role in the Blues engine room this season, and was notable by his absence during Chelsea's only Premier League defeat so far in 2014/15 when they went down 2-1 against Newcastle United at St James' Park.
Matic was serving a one-game suspension after picking up five yellow cards, and left a gaping hole in the middle of the park which John Obi Mikel found difficult to fill. Jose Mourinho hinted that it contributed to his team's eventual downfall, further highlighting just how important a player the former Benfica star has become.
Terry agreed with Mourinho's valuation that afternoon, and is under no illusions the important role that the midfield anchor continues to play, after paying the best compliment of all by comparing him to the French legend.
"You look at the exciting days when the manager first came, and Claude Makelele was the master in that position where Matic plays and Matic is very close to that," the skipper was quoted saying by the Sunday Mirror. "We missed him at Newcastle."
Looking ahead to Monday night's match against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium, Terry insisted that the players are feeling confident despite the additional pressure of Manchester City moving level on points after their impressive 3-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Saturday.
"They probably don't come any tougher than Stoke away," he added. "But we are doing well and it's important we go into games doing the dogged stuff, putting our bodies on the line.
"The strength in depth of the squad [is the difference]. This season we are winning games that maybe we drew last season. We speak among ourselves about regrouping and going again."
The physical test that awaits the Blues in the Potteries tomorrow night is exactly the sort of game that should appeal to a player like Matic, who will be looking to stamp his authority in a bid to earn another three points for his side.