‘The game against Everton is a good opportunity to give a chance to young players like Charly Musonda and Kenedy. They are young but they deserve this chance because they are working very well, they are improving and to see the improvement during a tough game against Everton, I think is important for the club.’
Those were words from Antonio Conte in the wake of last weekend’s Watford game when he was asked to look forward to tonight’s Carabao Cup tie against fellow top-flight opposition. So the stage looks set for Charly Musonda Jr to start a home game against a Premier League club for the first time, having impressed and indeed scored in the 5-1 win over Nottingham Forest in the previous round. He smashed in our third goal from a Cesc Fabregas pass.
Since then there was a Premier League appearance as a second-half substitute in the defeat at Crystal Palace the day before his 21st birthday. Musonda previously came on late in the Community Shield match and the Burnley home game back in August.
‘I was pleased with the Nottingham Forest game because it was my full debut for the club and to start at the Bridge was an unbelievable experience, and I was pleased with the result as well,’ Musonda tells the official Chelsea website.
‘I enjoyed it because I think it was a good performance from me and the team as well, I was very happy to hit the ground running in my first start. My goal was a typical one for me. My goals are either close-range shooting or dribbling and shooting, and it was a good goal.
‘To be honest I was not expecting such a great atmosphere in a League Cup game but the stadium was full and I was very moved by that to be honest.
‘The Crystal Palace game was a hard day for the team,’ he adds, ‘but it was still a great experience for me to come on for half an hour and have a taste of playing away in the Premier League.’
Musonda is the son of a former Zambia international who played most of his club football in Belgium at Anderlecht. He too was called Charly Musonda, hence the JR for junior you see on the back of young Charly’s shirt.
‘My name is Musonda Musonda Charly Junior,’ he explains, ‘and when I was young people used to think I could not be called Musonda Musonda so they started calling me Charly, which is one of my names. So people now call me Charly Musonda so I have become used to it. I wanted to put Junior at the back because I want to have my own story now but it is good people know that my dad used to play before. Hopefully I can carry on from his story and do well as well.’
He joined Chelsea in 2013 and won a collection of trophies with our Academy sides. He really began to make a name for himself on-loan in La Liga at Real Betis.
‘I went there in January 2016 and I stayed one year and the first season was great,’ he reports. ‘I played a lot of football and I enjoyed it. I hit the ground running which was unexpected as it was my first experience in men’s football so I was very happy to be doing so well at the start, scoring in my second game.
‘The second season was a bit less because I was in and out but it was a great experience playing against some of the best players in the world and in one of the best leagues in the world. It has given me a push to be in the team right now here at Chelsea. It gives you more confidence to come back in the team with a lot of world-class players.
‘Chelsea are in a lot of contact with you when you are on loan. From the start it was quite clear that the club has a lot of belief in me so I was always going to come back here and see what I could do in the first team, so they always stayed in touch with me and after big games, they give you feedback and it is great to have that regularly.
‘In January I was set to go on another loan but the manager said he wanted me to stay here, he wanted to see what I can do. He was happy with my work and I was going to get a chance when we were champions but unfortunately I got injured, but it was a great experience to be around the team.’
Musonda says he is learning a lot from the many world-class attacking players in the Chelsea squad but it is natural given their shared nationality and similarities in playing style that Eden Hazard is especially a role model. In the Forest game they were together in an all-Belgian front-three along with Michy Batshuayi.
‘Eden has taught me a lot coming through and he still teaches me a lot in training and after games,’ confirms Musonda.
‘We are good friends and you saw in the game against Nottingham Forest that there is a good understanding on the pitch. I am very lucky to have a guy like him here.
‘Overall I am working more physically now. I am working on my physical condition in the gym because that is the most important, that is my next phase coming into this league. The rest is training and doing as much as I can there and taking it step-by-step.’
The next step is tonight’s match for which another good crowd is guaranteed.
‘Everton is a very big team and it is going to be a big challenge and we are looking forward to it,’ he says.
‘It is a good test for me and it will be a good test for the team to go through the competition. This is Chelsea and every competition we play in we want to win so we will do our best and hopefully we can go through to the quarter-finals.’