Willian: High hopes at home

Over the course of his four-and-a-half years at Chelsea, Willian has already helped the Blues secure three trophies, and ahead of tonight’s Carabao Cup semi-final first leg against Arsenal, the Brazilian has expressed a fierce desire to add to his collection.

Willian, of course, knows what it feels like to win the League Cup. It was the first trophy he picked up as a Chelsea player, in 2014/15, when goals from John Terry and Diego Costa ensured we got the better of Tottenham in the final.

Our immediate focus is now on Arsenal, who we face over two legs with a place in this season’s showpiece, against either Manchester City or Bristol City, at stake. The attacker says the team are full of belief going into the first leg at Stamford Bridge tonight.

‘We are confident,’ Willian tells the official Chelsea website. ‘It’s another semi-final for us and a great opportunity to reach the final. It’s a big game, an important game, and of course we want to get through to Wembley.

‘There are two legs and we have to make sure we’re ready for each match. If we win at Stamford Bridge we can go to the Emirates in a good position. Arsenal are strong at home, they have a lot of possession and play with the ball but I think if we play well over the two legs and do a good job we can reach the final.’

Tonight’s game will be the second of three meetings between the clubs in the space of a few weeks, with the decisive leg at the Emirates to follow in a fortnight’s time.

Just last week we met in the Premier League, with both sides having to settle for a point each following an entertaining 2-2 draw in north London.

Of course, tonight’s fixture will be a completely different contest to the one a week ago, but did we learn anything from that game which could be used to our advantage in this semi-final?

‘Yes, I think so,’ says Willian. ‘In football there are always ways in which you can improve and there are things we learnt from last week’s game which we can take into these matches, so let’s approach it in a strong way and give everything to win.’

Aside from the opening-day defeat to Burnley, the Blues have only been beaten once at home this season, the 1-0 reverse against Manchester City in September, and since that result we have won nine and drawn two of our subsequent 11 matches.

‘Of course that’s very positive,’ Willian says. ‘We are really strong at Stamford Bridge and we have to continue in that way. You always have to try to win when you play at home and hopefully we can do a great job against Arsenal.’

Willian was an integral figure for us at this stage of the competition in 2015 when we overcame Liverpool in what was a dramatic, tight semi-final.

Following a 1-1 draw at Anfield, the decisive leg in the capital went all the way to extra-time, and it was Willian who supplied the free-kick from which Branislav Ivanovic headed home a brilliant winning goal to send us through.

‘It was a good, close game,’ he recalls. ‘It was a big fixture against a strong team and it went to extra-time when Ivanovic scored the winner. Those are the type of games every player wants to be involved in, a semi-final with lots at stake.

‘All of the players need to be ready because even if you don’t start, maybe you will be needed in the second half, so you have to be prepared.’

It was another Willian free-kick which led to Terry’s opener in the final against Tottenham three years ago, and the memory of winning his first trophy as a Chelsea player still brings a smile to the Brazilian’s face.

‘Trophies are trophies and I want to get more,’ he says. ‘I already have three, two Premier Leagues and one League Cup, since I’ve been here, but I really want to win more because when you play for a big club like Chelsea you have to win trophies every season and that’s what we will try to do.’

The Blues are seeking to win the League Cup for the sixth time in our history and Willian has been a key performer in this season’s competition, scoring the second goal in our win over Everton and breaking the deadlock in the quarter-final against Bournemouth.

When called upon of late he has responded, scoring in our recent win over Stoke – his seventh goal of the season – and instigating the move which was finished off by Marcos Alonso against Arsenal last week with a wonderful cross-field pass to Davide Zappacosta.

‘I’m happy with my performances,' he said. 'Since I started to play more games I’ve improved, scored more goals and helped the team.’