Alonso: Big task, big incentive

Marcos Alonso believes defending well and displaying a clinical edge in front of goal will be the key to beating Barcelona over two legs.

Antonio Conte’s side face the Spaniards in the first leg of our last-16 Champions League tie at Stamford Bridge tomorrow, with the return to follow at the Camp Nou on 14 March.

Alonso was a Premier League-winner last season, his first at the club, and he says the team are focusing on replicating that success on the European stage.

‘Yes, of course,’ he responded, when asked if last season’s title triumph has inspired him to want to achieve even more. ‘Especially considering how hard it will be for us to win the Premier League at this point. The whole team are raring to do well in the Champions League and we’re looking forward to a fantastic tie against Barça.

‘Now that I know how amazing it feels to win an important trophy such as the Premier League, I’m hungry for more. This year we’ll fight until the end.’

Alonso has missed our past three games due to injury but in his post-match press conference following Friday’s win over Hull City, Antonio Conte said he expects to be able to call on the left wing-back for tomorrow’s fixture. Alonso trained with the rest of the squad at Cobham today.

The Spaniard, who has scored seven goals this season, explained why he has flourished under Conte’s guidance since moving to Stamford Bridge.

‘Well, I think that our coach works very well both tactically and defensively,’ said the 27-year-old.

‘As one can see from the outside, he brings a lot of passion to the table, which helps us to always stay focused and give our all.

‘What’s more, it was easy for me to adapt and thrive here after having played in the same position for several years while in Italy, and also because of the great players we have here.

‘I started out as a left-back in a back four and I felt very comfortable there. However, I now feel in my element in this role and, above all, I’m more involved in the attacking side of the game, which is what I like the most.’

photo of Marcos Alonso Marcos Alonso

The challenge of overcoming Barcelona, who won 2-0 at Eibar on Saturday, and reaching the quarter-finals is clearly a big one.

History, however, has shown we are more than capable of eliminating the Catalan club as we did so in 2012 and 2005, and Alonso explained what we will need to do in order to progress.

‘We know they’ve been one of the best teams in the world in recent years, if not the best, and it will undoubtedly be a very tough tie,’ he said.

‘I think we’ll have to defend very well and take our chances because, like I said, they’re a very tough team to beat, let alone over two legs. Still, we will prepare as best we can and give it a shot, and we’ll see how the tie unfolds.

‘The general consensus has been that it’s better to be at home in the second leg, but I don’t think it matters much. Obviously, it will be important to acquit ourselves well on home turf in the first leg so that we’re in with a good chance going to the Camp Nou, which is a very difficult place to win.’

More from chelsea