BRANISLAV IVANOVIC is hoping Chelsea can kick on following the international break after a start to the season in which Jose Mourinho's men have remained in contention despite leaving plenty of room for improvement.
Chelsea enter the international hiatus in third place in the Premier League, two points behind leaders Arsenal, after claiming a first away win of the league season at Norwich.
When club action resumes, Chelsea play seven games in 21 days, beginning with Cardiff, Schalke and Manchester City.
"When we're back from the national team we have the very tight schedule of games," defender Ivanovic said.
"I think we have to work very hard to be top, and use all the squad for these kind of games that are coming up for us.
"I think we are (heading) in the right way."
The run of matches includes a game with Arsenal, just two days after the clash with City.
However, the Emirates Stadium fixture comes in the League Cup and Mourinho has already suggested he will select an Under-21 team due to the proximity of crucial Premier League and Champions League matches.
Ivanovic believes the key to the Premier League title race will be to accumulate points when not playing well, as Chelsea did at Carrow Road in their 3-1 win.
"This year is going to be a very tough, a very difficult league," the Serbia defender added.
"Every team will have a bad period and a good period.
"The important thing is in the bad period to take the points, and to stay (in contention).
"Arsenal are dong well at the moment, but the season is a long one."
Ivanovic has been Mourinho's first-choice right-back this term, but knows no-one at Chelsea is guaranteed a place.
Ivanovic added: "With our manager you have to impress him every day. You have to show him every day especially the small details. All of us."