Matches make the man
Inside Blue Sat 11 Nov 2017
This week looks set to deliver the latest landmark matches in Andreas Christensen's development, but they don't seem to have fazed him before.
The 21-year-old is already coming off the back of one big week, as he earned widespread praise for his performance in Sunday's 1-0 win over Manchester United, playing a big part in shutting out one of the Premier League's most potent attacks.
It looks set to get even bigger as he attempts to qualify for the World Cup in the coming days. Christensen is part of the Denmark squad which faces the Republic of Ireland in a two-legged play-off for a place in Russia next summer, with the matches being played on the evenings of Saturday 11 November and Tuesday 14 November.
However, as important as this run of three games in a week and a half may prove to be in Christensen's career, they are just the latest milestones in his development from a promising youngster into an imposing defender worthy of a place in Chelsea's back line. Here are a few of the biggest moments in his career so far which have shown how far he has come.
Denmark Under-17s 4-1 Italy Under-17s, 12 October 2011
The Danish national team's talent scouts spotted Christensen's potential early and identified him as a player whose progress through their youth sides was worth accelerating. As a result, having made just one appearance for the Under-16s and not long turned 15 years old, he was handed his debut for their Under-17s. Given his tender years, plus the fact that his debut came in a European Championship qualifier against strong favourites Italy, the pressure must have been immense. His mental fortitude was tested further when he got off to a nightmare start, opening the scoring by putting the ball into the back of his own net in unfortunate circumstances after just 19 minutes. However, he was already showing a calmness and maturity well beyond his years, and kept a level head to score the equaliser at the right end just after half time. He went on to put in a flying performance at right-back as Denmark recovered for what would prove to be a crucial victory, as they finished top of their qualifying group, ahead of second-place Italy by exactly three points.
Chelsea Under-18's 5-3 Fulham Under-18's, 5 May 2014
A further test of Christensen's mental strength came in the 2014 FA Youth Cup final. Having tasted defeat to Norwich with Chelsea at the last hurdle the previous year, many feared the worst when the Blues went into the second leg against Fulham already 3-2 down, before going further behind in a frantic first half which saw the aggregate score standing at 6-4 to the Cottagers with 45 minutes remaining. However, Christensen and his teenage team-mates never stopped believing in their ability to claim victory, even when staring defeat in the face, and three goals in the last 13 minutes turned the tie on its head and saw the young Dane leaving Stamford Bridge with a winner's medal around his neck.
Shrewsbury Town 1-2 Chelsea, 28 October 2014
Having signed his first professional contract in the summer of 2014, Christensen was handed his first taste of senior football in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup. The 18-year-old showed his versatility, and the trust in him from Jose Mourinho, as he played the the full 90 minutes at right-back, no doubt learning plenty in that time from having the experience of players like Petr Cech and Gary Cahill around him. The match itself was quite an education too, coming up against rugged, determined and in-form League Two opponents in front of a partisan crowd at New Meadow desperate for an upset. He may not have been the stand-out player – that was always going to be Didier Drogba, with the Ivorian back at the Blues and back on the score sheet – but he acquitted himself well with a no-nonsense, solid showing in the face of a highly-physical onslaught, especially in the closing stages as we held our lead and Shrewsbury threw everything forward in pursuit of an equaliser. That win put us into the quarter-finals and we would go on to lift the trophy later that season. Although this was the Dane's only appearance in the competition, it clearly left an impression on his manager, as when asked for his pick of Man of the Match after the final, Mourinho replied: 'Man of the Match was Andreas Christensen, who played well against Shrewsbury'.
Borussia Monchengladbach 4-2 Augsburg, 23 September 2015
The 2015/16 season saw Christensen moving on loan to Germany with an old name of the Bundesliga hoping to rekindle past glories, Borussia Monchengladbach. However, the start of the campaign proved difficult for player and club, the new boy being one of several squad members finding themselves in and out of the side as manager Lucien Favre struggled to figure out his best line-up amid a disastrous start, which saw them lose their opening five league games in a row, and ultimately cost Favre his job. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, though, as new boss Andre Schubert showed faith in Christensen to play, and in his favoured central defensive position, right from the start. Schubert's first game in charge saw the Dane helping 'Gladbach to a morale-boosting home win and they never looked back. That started a run of six consecutive league wins and thoroughly turned the tide. The Foals would finish the season in fourth place, sealing qualification for the Champions League, and Christensen was voted their Player of the Year by supporters.
Borussia Monchengladbach 1-1 Manchester City, 23 November 2016
Being drawn in a Champions League group including Barcelona and Manchester City, progression to the knockout stages was always going to be a tall order for Borussia Monchengladbach. In reality, third place and a spot in the Europa League was probably the best they could hope for, and this was the game which secured that outcome, giving them a three-point lead over Celtic going into the final round of fixtures with a better head-to-head record. By this time Schubert had switched his team to a back three, something which seems to be standing Christensen in good stead with Chelsea this season, and the young centre-back was the man tasked with the unenviable task of marking one of Europe's most prolific strikers, Sergio Aguero. It was a performance that showed Christensen was ready for the very highest level of competition, subduing Aguero's threat throughout as the German side achieved a memorable result.
Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Chelsea, 20 August 2017
Another first for Christensen in which he looked unfazed in a high-pressure situation. Even for a full Premier League debut for Chelsea, away at Tottenham in a London derby played at Wembley Stadium is a fairly memorable one. Back at the heart of a three-man defence, this time alongside Cesar Azpilicueta and Antonio Rudiger, he was again facing a striker accustomed to finding the back of the net on a regular basis, in Harry Kane. With all due respect, this was no League Cup game or loan spell, this was a massive opportunity in a big game for the club which had nurtured his development for years, not to mention a huge show of faith in the youngster's talent for Antonio Conte. It didn't show. Needless to say, if our Italian boss had any remaining doubts about Christensen's readiness to play an important part for Chelsea this season, they would have been banished by another assured performance. The opposition's star marksman was again kept off the score sheet and our back three provided the basis for a vital first win of the season with a professional and resolute showing.