Big chance to bounce back

Spanish duo Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso have highlighted the importance of today’s FA Cup game against Newcastle as the Blues attempt to secure our place in the fifth round of the competition.

Stamford Bridge is the venue for the lunchtime clash, with Antonio Conte’s side aiming to put the disappointment of our midweek defeat to Arsenal, when the home side scored two fortunate goals, behind us.

Azpilicueta, who has captained the side recently in the absence of Gary Cahill, says the team are determined to return to winning ways.

‘It’s a big game and we know how special the FA Cup is for this club, we know how special the games in this cup are, with the fans,’ he said. ‘Now we face a Premier League team, Newcastle, and a manager a few of us know very well, so we will try to bounce back from Wednesday’s defeat and try to get into the next round.’

Chelsea supporters will be hoping for a repeat of the Premier League meeting between the sides, at the start of December, when we ran out 3-1 winners after falling behind, thanks to an Eden Hazard brace and a goal from Alvaro Morata.

Azpilicueta knows Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez well having worked under his compatriot during his short spell in charge at Stamford Bridge in 2013.

‘In the six months he was here with us we won the Europa League and reached the semi-finals of both cups,’ said the 28-year-old. ‘We enjoyed it because we won the Europa League and reached our target of qualifying for the Champions League and I improved personally under him.’

In terms of the significance of the game, Alonso echoed the sentiments of his team-mate, and the left wing-back also spoke about overcoming the difficulties which arise from such a busy schedule.

‘Now we have the FA Cup and it’s going to be a very important game for us,’ he said. ‘We have to stick together and push to show the team we are and the quality we have.

‘Since the start of the season we have been playing more games and that’s obviously harder than it was last year but we are training well and recovering well.

‘Sometimes you’re not going to be 100 per cent but that happens to every team and even if you are not 100 per cent you have to give everything, we’ve seen that many times and we have to keep doing it.’

Having seen Ross Barkley make his Chelsea debut at the Emirates, coming on for the injured Willian in the first half, Alonso praised our newest arrival.

‘I think he’s going to be a great player for us,’ said the Spaniard. ‘He had a great game after a difficult start. I’m happy for him and for sure he will be important for us.’