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Off-field blues are making us stronger insists Ivanovic

BRANISLAV Ivanovic claimed the John Terry and Ashley Cole scandals could have a "positive" effect on Chelsea's bid for silverware after helping them storm four points clear at the top of the Premier League.

The European champions shrugged off the latest furore to engulf the club by crushing Norwich 4-1 on Saturday and posting their best start to a season since 2006.

Chelsea have become past masters at playing amid an off-field maelstrom surrounding either Terry or Cole but perhaps not both at the same time.

That is exactly what they did on Saturday after Terry was found guilty by an independent Football Association regulatory commission of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand and Cole launched a foul-mouthed Twitter tirade at the English game's governing body.

Manager Roberto Di Matteo denied a siege mentality had set in at Stamford Bridge but right-back Ivanovic said: "Maybe the extra pressure keeps you more concentrated and focused.

"Maybe it's positive when you have to think like that."

The Terry and Cole sagas have done serious damage to Chelsea's off-field reputation at a time where their standing on the pitch could hardly be higher.

Nineteen points from 21 is their second-best haul ever in the Premier League, they also top their Champions League group, and all the while beginning to play the scintillating football both owner Roman Abramovich and their critics have been demanding.

The problem is not many people are talking about that at the moment.

After scoring his fourth goal already this season, Ivanovic said: "The most important thing is the position of the club.

"It's great at the moment and I hope we're going to stay there.

"Maybe this way, this is what the people will have to say about Chelsea, about how we play and this kind of thing, which is what we deserve."

Saturday's performance was the perfect way for Chelsea to go into the international break but Ivanovic warned that far tougher tests lay ahead.

First up is a reunion at Tottenham with former boss Andre Villas-Boas, who tried so hard last season to get Chelsea playing the kind of dazzling football they are now producing under Di Matteo.

That is followed by a difficult Champions League game away to Shakhtar Donetsk, back-to-back league and League Cup clashes with Manchester United and -- after a trip to Swansea -- home meetings with Shakhtar and Liverpool.

To make matters worse, the Blues will be without Terry for their first four domestic games during that period if he decides not to appeal against the guilty verdict in his racist abuse case.

It was therefore no surprise right-back Ivanovic refused to get carried away with Chelsea's scintillating form.

"It's good that we are four points ahead at the moment," he said.

"But it means nothing because we know how difficult this league is and how every game is very tough."