Ballack has failed to make a positive impact at Stamford Bridge since his free transfer from Bayern Munich 18 months ago.

He fell out with former boss Jose Mourinho over the timing of his operation in May but now coach Avram Grant feels he has the desire to make up for lost time as he makes his comeback tonight against Liverpool.

Ballack's return may not be as significant this evening as it could be in the next few weeks.

With midfielders Essien and Mikel John Obi plus Salomon Kalou and Didier Drogba heading for the African Nations Cup, Chelsea may ask a lot of the German in January and February.