Birmingham central defender Scott Dann believes he is finally approaching full match fitness after undergoing groin surgery in the summer.
Dann had to wait until late September to make his debut against Hull following his summer move from Coventry City.
He has made himself a key member of the Blues' back four alongside Roger Johnson during a nine-game unbeaten run.
But Dann, who three years ago was playing non-league football for Redditch and Hednesford, insists only now does he feel he is close to complete sharpness.
Dann said: "I'm fit - but not as fit as I can be - but I am getting there. I've played a lot of games recently and I'm getting fitter with each game.
"My performances have been improving and I've become more confident. Before the game at Hull, I hadn't played for five or six months with the summer and also missing a little bit of action at the end of last season.
"Full fitness doesn't come overnight so you've just got to keep working away."
Dann is relishing the chance to play against some of the Barclays Premier League's top strikers as he prepares for Saturday's home clash with leaders Chelsea.
And he takes immense pride in Blues' defensive record of just 18 goals conceded, which is only bettered by Aston Villa, Chelsea and Manchester United.
He said: "From my point of view, you want to play against the best and prove yourself against the best and to do that, you've got to be on top of your game.
"We haven't conceded as many goals as most of the other teams and that's part of the thing that is bringing us these current results.
"It's a team thing, not just the defence, and we've been solid for most of the season and built foundations.
"We know if we get a goal, then we are going to be hard to beat."