In recent seasons Ballack has played down the importance of these games against direct title rivals, perhaps partly because Chelsea have not done well in this type of match in the past three seasons. But now he has gone full circle, convinced they hold huge psychological significance for the victors.
"In the past I had the opinion that you could lose a big game to a big team and it doesn't decide the title," he told the Independent. "But winning gives you a massive confidence for the next weeks.
"If you beat Man United or Liverpool, you know the team worked well, you are in good shape, you beat the best team, you can beat the best teams in the league. It gives a sign to the other clubs but also to yourself. It is a big, big point in the season."