AZPILICUETA'S CUP DREAM
Cesar Azpilicueta is seeking progress this afternoon in what he describes as 'an important competition'.
The defender, who made his Spanish international debut earlier this month, helped us to a clean sheet against Sparta Prague on Thursday night and is looking for similar against Brentford this afternoon as he goes in search of an FA Cup winner's medal.
'Last season I watched the final against Liverpool because of the Spanish players. It's a competition I like, a prestigious cup that I didn't win in Spain or France and I want to do it this year,' said the 23-year-old.
'The ambience of the stadiums and the games are different in the FA Cup, you feel it. It's an important competition for the country and our club.'
Azpilicueta knows all about our recent rich history in the competition, with four wins in the last six years, and is eager to take some silverware away from a testing first campaign in English football. Having joined the European champions in the summer, he admits he was not expecting to play Europa League football this season but remains positive about our ambitions.
'When I came we were champions of Europe. You don't think in February it will be like this. Last year I reached the quarter-final of the Champions League with Marseille so here I thought I would go further but we didn't do it and now we are in the Europa League and we want to win it,' he said.
'When you're in February approaching the last months of the season you start to play a lot of finals. We have two legs with Sparta, the replay with Brentford and then the Etihad Stadium against Manchester City. It is going to be difficult and we need to be 100 per cent.'
We combined a clean sheet with a victory on Thursday for the first time since beating Stoke on January 12, and Azpilicueta believes it was an important boost for the side.
'It's a good win when you play away against a team preparing for a long time for the game,' he pointed out. 'It's important to have clean sheets, it's important for our confidence and we try to defend as a team doing our job. When you win with a clean sheet you enjoy it as a defender.
'We created chances but it wasn't our best game with the ball, so maybe it was a better night for the defenders.'
This afternoon, we will be expected to spend more time on the front foot than we did in Prague. If he plays, you can expect to see Azpilicueta putting in the sort of shift that has earned him a growing reputation on the domestic, as well as international stage.