BRAZILIAN defender Emerson Thome returns to his old stamping ground at Stamford Bridge this afternoon knowing he faces the test of the season against the Premiership's top marksman, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.

The Dutch striker has claimed 18 league and cup goals and Thome, who became Sunderland's record buy when he moved from Chelsea for £4.5m early this season, has no illusions about the severity of the job he has to tackle on his first return to the London club.

He said: "Hasslebaink is the top striker in the Premier League at the mement.

"He is a really powerful player who can strike from all over the place.

"Everybody has seen in the games he has played just how powerful a shot he has.

"You have to be very careful and you have to be in the right places against him. I know I will have to be on my toes to mark him.

"But at the end of the day that's a group job and it is not the job just of one player."

Thome has no worries about the reception he will receive from the Chelsea fans, who took to him after his move to the capital from Sheffield Wednesday.

"I think when you are a 100 percent commitment player the supporters know that, understand that and appreciate that," said the no-nonsense central defender.

"They knew I was a 100 per cent player who would give the best I can out there on the pitch.

"Sometimes your best does not come off, but you are still working hard and that is the main thing."

Even though Thome enjoyed his season with Chelsea, though he was ineligible to play in the FA Cup-winning campaign, he was not despondent when the Londoners decided to accept Sunderland's offer.

He said: "I regarded it as a big move for me.

"Sunderland came in for me and they were a good club to move to - they had a very high reputation with a very bright future ahead of them.

"They had come up from the First Division and had done very well in their first season in the Premiership.

"It was a club which appealed to me as having a very bright future and one which was determined to attract good players up here.

"Sunderland seemed to be a club which had something to say for itself and I am very pleased to have joined them.

"I think Sunderland is a very good place to play football and I am very happy to be here."

Thome diplomatically chooses not to give an opinion on whether he thinks Sunderland or his old club will finish higher up the table, but he admits he thought star-studded Chelsea would have had a better season.

He said: "Everbody is surprised that they have not done better.

"With the bunch of players Chelsea have everybody expected them to be challenging Manchester United for the title.

"But they are on a good run at the moment and have just had their first away win on a difficult pitch at West Ham.

"They are obviously growing in confidence and I think it will be a real battle against them.

"I don't know if Sunderland will finish ahead of Chelsea in the Premiership - there are still nine games to play."

Thome feels there are more clubs in the Premiership on a similar level than there are in the Italian and Spanish leagues.

He said: "There must be more clubs on an equal standing in England than in other country.

"You cannot expect the same clubs to win all the competitions here.

"Manchester United are winning more things like titles and are drawing away from the rest, but after that you can pick out one or two clubs but the others are more or less together.