AZPILICUETA: TURNING THE PAGE

Posted on: Fri 08 Feb 2013

While a number of our players enjoyed successful midweek games for their respective nations, few will have returned to Cobham with the same sense of achievement felt by Cesar Azpilicueta, after the 23-year-old made his senior Spain debut.

Azpilicueta, who signed for Chelsea back in August, was called into the squad by Vicente Del Bosque following a string of impressive displays at right-back for the Blues, and played the full 90 minutes as Spain beat Uruguay 3-1 in Qatar.

As if making his bow for the world and European champions wasn't enough, the youngster also had the small matter of a strikeforce comprising Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani to contend with.

'I started representing Spain at the age of 15, so this was the last step to play for the national team,' he tells the official Chelsea website. 'It was very nice because I met up with players who I'd played with in the past, and the people I didn't know made me feel very welcome.

'There is a fantastic spirit among the group; they are all very good players, but also very good people. There was a really nice atmosphere in the squad and that helps with results. They have won two European Championships' and one World Cup, but they are still working with the mentality of winning every game.

'I had Juan [Mata] with me and also [Nacho] Monreal, who I played with at Osasuna. That was very important because when you join up with the squad it can be a bit daunting, it's not easy, but from the first minute they were all very nice and went out of their way to help, so it made me feel better.

'Uruguay are the champions of South America, they are a very strong team with good players playing for big clubs and doing well. It was a tough game; defensively they were strong and they were dangerous on the counter-attack, but fortunately for us we did our job and got the win.'

Tomorrow sees Azpilicueta return to club duties as the Blues face Wigan Athletic at Stamford Bridge, looking to put an end to a disappointing sequence of results in recent weeks.

After allowing a two-goal lead to slip at Reading, we then conceded a last-minute goal at Newcastle United to lose 3-2, having led 2-1 early in the second half, and the Spaniard acknowledged that with Tottenham Hotspur now only a point behind us, there is no margin for error.

'The last few results have been disappointing,' he says. 'Against Reading we were winning 2-0 with five minutes to go, so when we conceded two late goals it felt more like a defeat.

'Against Newcastle we were 2-1 up and ended up losing the game. St James' Park is a difficult place to go, but we were very upset at the end of the game.

'Now it's important we turn the page and look forward, starting tomorrow against Wigan. The game is at home, so we will have our supporters behind us, and all we are thinking about is winning the game and getting the three points.'

Our last home game, the 2-1 win against Arsenal, was one of our most impressive performances of late, particularly in the first half when we could, and probably should, have been out of sight by the break, and Azpilicueta believes it will be important to start tomorrow's game in a similar manner.

'We started very well against Arsenal, with a high intensity as a team,' he explains. 'All the players were enjoying the game because we felt stronger than them; we were scoring goals, creating chances and defending well.

'Going 2-0 up gave us a big advantage, so it goes to show how important it is to start the game in the right way.'

Wigan manager Roberto Martinez has been in charge of the Latics since 2009, and is well regarded on these shores for the job he has done, both at the DW Stadium and in his previous role at Swansea City.

Back in his home country, however, Martinez is slightly lesser known, although as Azpilicueta explains, he remains highly thought of.

'He hasn't worked in Spain, but he is well respected and they recognise the job he's doing in the Premier League,' he says.

'It's difficult because if he was coaching in Spain you would hear more about him over there. However, they speak very highly of him, he's a very good young manager.'