Cesar Azpilicueta admits it will be a special feeling for him to lead Chelsea out as captain for the Europa League final, although he believes only victory in Baku will mark the hard work and progress that has been made by the Blues this season.
The Spaniard was speaking during a press conference held at the Olympic Stadium in the Azerbaijan capital ahead of tomorrow’s European final against Arsenal.
‘It’s something very special to lead this team and club alongside amazing people around me in the dressing room and the club,’ he said.
‘Winning a final as captain is something as a boy that you dream about – I did it once with the national team at the Under-19 Euros but this is a very different stage to that.’
The defender was asked if there was more pressure on Arsenal to win the final.
The question came given that the Europa League winners are guaranteed a place in the Champions League group stage and Unai Emery's side were unable to secure a top-four Premier League finish.
‘I don’t agree that there is no pressure on us because every season we fight for every trophy. We achieved the target of Champions League football by finishing third but this was only one target and the other was to win this trophy. We started in September and always had the final in our mind so it’s a big game for us.’
Azpilicueta was also questioned about the contrasting mentalities of the Chelsea and Arsenal groups following comments made by former Blue Petr Cech this week.
The Gunners goalkeeper, who is expected to start against his former team-mates in his final game before retirement, suggested that pressure to win was greater at Stamford Bridge and that this raised the bar as a result.
‘Petr knows better than me because he has been in both dressing rooms,' added Azpilicueta. 'I can only talk about Chelsea but I’ve been here seven years and there has always been the feeling to win every game and every competition. This final is a big opportunity to keep winning trophies and it’s a trophy we won in 2013 so we know how big it is.’
The skipper finished by reflecting on a season of good and bad moments.
‘We’ve been working hard with him since July,' he said, citing lessons learned during tough times as particularly important in our run to this European final. 'There have been ups and downs where we’ve not been happy with results but the downs have made us stronger as a group and they are one of the reasons we’re here in this final.
‘After all the hard work of this season, we all deserve to have a good game, play with our heart and give everything. It’s a London derby in a European final so it’s a big game for both teams.’