TITUS Bramble admits it will be a baptism of fire if his 2011-12 season starts against Chelsea tomorrow.
But the big defender says he is looking forward to the game and the challenge of taking on some of the best strikers in football.
“Games don’t get much harder for a defender than Chelsea,” he smiled. “You’ve got the likes of Fernando Torres, Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and now the new kid on the block, Juan Mata.
“So you know you’re going to have your hands full as a defender in a game like that but I don’t mind that at all, it’s something to be excited about rather than worried.
“You’re in football to play against the very best players out there and Chelsea are right up there with the very best in terms of the players they’ll bring to the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
“That’s the great thing though – you want to go up against the best because you know if you win your battles and keep a clean sheet, you’ve done a fantastic job.” Bramble says all of Chelsea’s strikers are to be respected but he says the one who might be the dangerman this weekend is ex-Liverpool hitman Fernando Torres.
The Spaniard has had a horrendous start to his Chelsea career since his £50m move from Anfield in January.
He scored only one goal for the Blues in 18 appearances last season and has yet to find the target in any of his three outings this season.
But Bramble said: “He’s a world class player and you write him off at your peril.
“I’ve played against him before and I’ve talked to loads of people he’s played against and we all say the same thing – give him a yard, just for a moment, and you’re likely to find the ball in the back of the net.
“It’s surprised everyone that he hasn’t scored more goals for Chelsea so far.
“But with a player of his calibre it’s only a matter of time before he punishes someone and we have to make sure it is not us this weekend.”
The Sunderland defender will get his chance tomorrow because of the transfer deadline sale of Anton Ferdninand to Queens Park Rangers and while it is Bramble who will benefit from the departure this Saturday, he says he would have been more than happy to see his colleague stay.
“Anton’s a good lad and he’ll be missed,” he said.
“He was the player who would help get us up before a game and help us get up again if we were down after losing a game.
“He’d also been playing some very good football this season but changes happen all the time in the game and you just learn to get on with them.
“Hopefully I’ll get my chance of a run in the side now and look to make the most of it and help the team continue to be strong defensively.
“We haven’t had the best of results in the league so far but defensively we haven’t done too badly at all – we’ve conceded just two goals in three games and we have to try to keep that sort of record going.”