Big targets and being ready

Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen, Tammy Abraham and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have all spoken this week about young players making progress…

 

Cesar Azpilicueta played alongside Andreas Christensen in the clean-sheet performance against Manchester United at the weekend and with two other Academy products joining the England squad for the first time this week, our experienced Spaniard has complemented the standard of players being produced by the club.

Azpilicueta, at 28 years of age and with 244 Chelsea games and 20 Spain caps to his name, has plenty of experience of the levels required and following the weekend win, he said:

‘We have shown we have a great Academy. Each young lad that comes to train with us, when they have the chance they show their qualities, their commitment and I am sure this is something the club has been looking for and we are pleased, because every young lad who comes into the team is very welcome and I am happy for Andreas for his performance.’

Christensen himself agrees Sunday’s game was a significant step in his development and says it is one that his two years away on loan in Germany prepared him for.

‘It was probably one of the biggest games even though I have played Champions League with Moenchengladbach,’ the 21-year-old told Chelsea TV.

‘In our Champions League groups, Moenchengladbach were very unlucky to get Man City, Barcelona, Juventus, but Man United is one of the best teams now in the Premier League so for me, in my career, this was one of the biggest games.

‘In the Champions League you feel the pressure even though Moenchengladbach were underdogs. Just playing against some big teams helps you prepare for the pressure. It helps a lot.’

Before he has the chance to play for Chelsea again, Christensen is in the Denmark squad for two huge international games – World Cup qualification play-off legs against Republic of Ireland.

‘I don’t think you can ever be too comfortable about these games, it is a play-off and a lot is at risk,’ he observed. ‘Both teams are going to try to do their best and it is going to be two very, very tough games. So I don’t think we can be too confident but I think we are a team and the results we got at the end of our group stage, we feel confident and hopefully we can progress.’

Christensen already has 13 caps but for Tammy Abraham and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, his fellow Chelsea youngsters who are now having their time developing on loan, the hope is for them to win their first caps in England’s friendlies against Germany and Brazil.

‘It would be a massive achievement for me and a big confidence boost as well, it would show that I'm going in the right direction,’ Abraham said.

‘I feel like I'm ready but it won't be easy. I just have to keep proving to the manager in training and showing why he picked me and just keep working as hard as I can. I just want to go out there, enjoy myself and show to the world what I'm truly made of.’

As well as speaking about his international ambition, the 20-year-old striker discussed his club aims too.

‘My main focus is the team that I am at, which is Swansea but pushing on, my main target is to hopefully be in that Chelsea squad one day and it is not going to be easy. You look at the players and you just have to keep pushing and working as hard as you can.

‘I have always wanted to play games and express myself and enjoy myself and you look at a club like Chelsea and they have fantastic players, it won’t be easy to get into that team so sometimes you do have to go away and play football and show Chelsea that you could be ready to get into that team.’

Loftus-Cheek, currently a regular selection for Crystal Palace, has also spoken this week about his call-up.

‘It was a really good moment for me and my family but you cannot linger on it for too long,’ said the 21-year-old. ‘I have got to work hard and knuckle down. I am very happy but at the same time I have still got to work hard.

‘I came away from Chelsea to get game time, experience, fitness, just getting used to playing in the Premier League week-in, week out. That is what I am getting.’