Olivier Giroud is the Europa League’s top scorer this season and ahead of the first leg of our quarter-final tie against Slavia Prague, the striker has analysed his perfect hat-trick in the last round, underlined the significance of the competition, and weighed up the challenge we face tonight.
Giroud has nine goals in nine Europa League appearances for the Blues at an exceptional strike rate of one every 74 minutes. He netted a third of those in our previous Europa League fixture, away to Dynamo Kiev, as we eased in to the last eight of a tournament we won in 2013.
It was a fantastic night for Giroud in the Ukrainian capital and understandably one that lingers in his memory.
‘I was only told after the game that it was a perfect hat-trick,’ the 32-year-old laughed.
‘I didn’t realise that I scored one with my right foot, one with my left and one header. It was very satisfying. They were all one touch. I score the majority of my goals in one touch. In the box, you don’t have much time to think about efficiency, because it’s the moment of truth where it all happens.
‘You need to be as quick as possible, make the right move and be clinical enough to play it with one touch.
‘The first goal was a real striker’s goal because I anticipated the flick on by Ruben. Then I was lucky for the ball to fall into my path. For those kind of goals, things happen fast, so you need to take the ball in the right way or it might end up in the stands.
‘The second goal was a great cross by Marcos who played the ball between the defender and the ‘keeper, and I did everything I could to stay onside. I hit it with my right foot because the ball was played onto my right foot. That’s efficiency.
‘The last goal was a good cross by Willy, a nice link-up and a good block on the defender. It had been a while since we scored from a set-piece, so that was good.'
The Blues have been near-flawless in the Europa League, winning nine of our 10 games in the competition to date. It has been a challenge maintaining such consistency on different fronts over the course of this campaign, but Giroud is determined to end well at home and on the continent.
‘We have the Premier League on one side and the Europa League on the other. We closed the Europa League book after the game in Kiev and focused on the Premier League. We will now need to focus on the Europa League once again.
‘There is a clear distinction between the two. Sometimes players are rotated as well. It doesn’t matter what the competition is: the end of the season is very important, we want to finish in the top four and win the Europa League. Those are the two main objectives for us.
‘Personally as a forward, it’s obviously great if you can score a lot of goals,’ he added. ‘Especially because the Europa League is the competition I play in the most.
‘A forward, naturally, is measured by how much of an impact he makes. It’s not only about scoring and helping others score, it’s also about all the work on the side. I try to give my best and help the team win their games. It’s going well so far and I hope that it will carry on like that.’
Tonight we meet Slavia Prague for the first time ever, and even if they do not hail from one of the traditional footballing powerhouses, Giroud is taking nothing for granted.
‘They’re not here due to luck. This team deserves it. It’s a quarter-final in a European competition and we will need to get a good result over there to be more relaxed come the second leg.
‘It will not be easy, we expect a very difficult game. Sevilla are a great team, so if Slavia knocked them out, it means that they are ready and they have the necessary quality. We will analyse their team and we’ll go there wanting to win the game.
‘I am sure that they have a great crowd, but our fans will be there too and our away fans are always 100 per cent behind us.’