AZPILICUETA: BUILDING FROM THE BACK
The Blues take on Arsenal tonight in the fourth round of the Capital One Cup, and while Jose Mourinho is expected to make many changes to the side which beat Manchester City on Sunday, Cesar Azpilicueta is confident we can maintain our recent run of form and overcome the in-form Gunners.
The weekend victory over Manuel Pellegrini's side made it eight consecutive matches without defeat, and Azpilicueta, who played the full 90 minutes in the 2-0 win at Swindon Town in the previous round, is looking forward to taking on the current Premier League leaders at the Emirates in what is a repeat of the 2007 final, when we ran out 2-1 winners in Cardiff.
'We played Manchester City on Sunday and now we play Arsenal away in the Capital One Cup, which is another big game,' said the 24-year-old.
'It's always nice to play in a stadium like the Emirates, they've started the season really well and it's a challenge for us to go there and try to play a good game, but more importantly win the match.'
Having established himself as a regular in the side during the second half of last season, the Spaniard hasn't featured as much as he would have liked so far this campaign, largely due to a combination of Branislav Ivanovic's consistency at right-back and the manager's preference for keeping a settled back four.
In the absence of Ashley Cole, however, he played the full 90 minutes in last week's 3-0 Champions League win in Schalke, and though he was deployed in a slightly less familiar left-back role, he was delighted to contribute to what was an important victory.
'It was good, the objective was to win there on a difficult pitch and against a good Schalke team,' he explains. 'We won 3-0 and it was important to score goals and keep a clean sheet.
'I played at left-back, which isn't my usual position, but it's more or less the same. It's the opposite side of the pitch but a lot of the movements are very similar and I enjoyed it.
'The game was quite comfortable for me because when somebody passes the ball it's always the same, it doesn't matter where you are on the pitch.
'It took a little time for me to adjust completely; mentally, it's good to know where you're going to play before the game and then start focusing on doing your best, but I played two or three games there when I was at Marseille so it was fine.'
Scoring goals certainly hasn't been a problem for the side of late, with 16 strikes in our last five matches, but the foundations for our impressive form in recent weeks have been laid with the manner in which the side are defending collectively.
Having already kept five clean sheets, the Blues, regardless of personnel, have looked solid from front to back, with Azpilicueta emphasising the significance of being difficult to break down.
'It's always important, especially as a defender, to keep a clean sheet, because it means your job is done,' he says. 'Whether you're a defender or a striker, it's about the team. When the team doesn't score goals you look at everybody because maybe we haven't been supplying the attackers with good balls, and it's the same at the back, if we are doing the correct job it's because the whole team are doing the work.
'It gives stability and confidence to the whole team if we are playing well defensively. At the moment we are scoring a lot of goals, we are playing a lot of games and improving. A new season, at the beginning, is always a bit difficult, but now we are starting to play really well.'
The nature of cup matches in this country ensures away teams are provided with a larger allocation of tickets than they would be for a normal league game, and we will be well represented when we take to the field tonight, backed by just under 9,000 supporters.
Prior to joining Chelsea, Azpilicueta played in both France and Spain, countries where supporters are far less inclined to travel in order to support their team, and he believes the players will thrive on such a passionate following.
'We always feel the support of our fans, everywhere we play they are there with us,' he says. 'In the cup matches they have even more tickets and there will be a lot of our supporters at the Emirates.
'They will provide fantastic backing for us and hopefully they will enjoy the game.'