Cesar Azpilicueta says the Chelsea players and supporters must work together in order to help us overcome Tottenham and reach the Carabao Cup final.
Maurizio Sarri’s side go into tonight’s decisive second leg with a 1-0 deficit to overturn, but with a passionate home support behind us at a sold-out Stamford Bridge, we have every chance of making it a night to remember for all the right reasons.
For Azpilicueta, who will skipper the side, there is no added incentive required.
‘It’s the second leg, we know we need a win to qualify and we know we have to push all together, the team and fans, and show the passion and desire to be in the final,’ he said.
‘We are lucky because we have been in a lot of finals, we have won a couple of trophies, and we have an opportunity to be back at Wembley. We are one game away from it and I think all the club - fans, players and staff deserve to be there, but we have to show it on the pitch.
‘We have to think about ourselves. It’s a derby and Chelsea versus Tottenham is always a special game. We have to play our football and create a great atmosphere inside the stadium, try to win every ball, score goals and defend. It’s a job we have to do all together.
‘We are coming from a tough defeat which hurt a lot for the players, managers, staff and fans, so we have to turn it around, beat Tottenham and qualify for the final. We have four months ahead with a lot of trophies to fight for. In the Premier League we are fourth, so we still have a lot of positives, but nobody is going to give anything to us so we have to work and earn it.
‘In the Carabao Cup we are one game away from the final. We are still in the FA Cup and the Europa League, where we are through to the knockout stages, is going to start soon, so every game is like a cup final. We are in the race to get silverware this year and we have to work hard. The earliest is the Carabao Cup so you can’t waste a chance to be in a final and fight for a trophy, but we have to show it on the pitch.’
The Spanish defender spoke about the positive work in training at Cobham following Saturday’s defeat to Arsenal.
‘Obviously after a defeat it’s been a tough week but the reaction from the team has been good,’ he explained. ‘We’ve been working on improvements, working hard in training sessions and tonight is the time to put that work in on the pitch.
‘I think it’s the best scenario to turn it around, to play a semi-final at Stamford Bridge against Tottenham. To try to play a final in February, and to go back to Wembley with our fans, is something we have in our minds.
‘The feeling in the dressing room was one of frustration and the manager was too. It’s normal because we didn’t play the way we wanted to play and control the game. We were punished in a very poor first few minutes when we conceded and it was more or less a copy of the Tottenham game, when we lost the game in the first few minutes. Then it’s very difficult to come back from 2-0 down.
‘The only way to turn it around is improve and learn from it, so we want this game to come as quickly as possible. If we could have played the day after the Arsenal game we would have done that.’
Eden Hazard has been deployed as the central figure in an attacking trio of late and the Belgian’s quality, regardless of where he plays on the pitch, is apparent for all to see.
Azpilicueta, as a friend and team-mate, knows the Belgian better than most, and praised his all-round ability.
‘I played against him in France in a period when we were both on a medium step before Chelsea,’ he explained.
‘Then we came here at the same time, so I’ve seen him develop. When he came here I think he only had one kid, now we both have three kids, and we live quite close to each other so obviously he’s a very good friend of mine. We have a good relationship.
‘On the pitch we have seen his development. He has amazing talent and the way the way he can create the difference is very rare to see.'