In the Mestalla Stadium, 24 hours before a game he described as possibly the biggest of his young career to date, Tammy Abraham claimed Chelsea must give everything to ensure their Champions League dream continues.
Frank Lampard’s side lost the group opener to the Spaniards at Stamford Bridge before back-to-back away wins in France and Amsterdam recovered lost ground and leaves us level on seven points in Group H alongside Ajax and Valencia. It all means that a victory for the visitors tomorrow night would seal a place in the last-16 courtesy of our superior record on the three-way head-to-head.
In his pre-match press conference at the stadium we last visited in September 2011 on the way to winning the competition, Abraham previewed a significant night in the group stage but insisted the attitude and work-rate in the build-up had not changed throughout the squad.
‘We know coming here is never going to be easy,’ said the 22-year-old. ‘Their fans will support Valencia all the way so we have to stick together as a team.
‘This is our biggest game of the season so far but training hasn’t been any different and nobody has been acting different. We’ve all been enjoying training and focused.
‘Coming after the loss at Man City, we’re all disappointed but we have to pick ourselves up because we have a massive game coming up. When tomorrow comes, we’ll all be in game mode and we know that have to give our best performance to win that game. We all know what’s coming so we should be ready.’
Abraham made his European debut against Los Che back in September alongside fellow Academy graduates Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori. Preparing on the pitch alongside a duo he had grown up alongside, our number nine and his team-mates were momentarily taken away by the experience. However, he insists now is the time to work.
‘Before the Valencia game it was myself, Mason and Fikayo warming up together and it didn’t feel real then,’ he said. ‘We were all in the Champions League together, hearing the music and we all said to each other we were in the Championship the season before so it’s a dream come true for us.
‘The little details cost us the game but from then we’ve had to learn and develop our game in different areas. This is an important competition for us so tomorrow is a massive game. We just have to go out there focused and leave it all on the pitch.
‘It’s just time for work now. Once you’re on the pitch and you hear the music you just have to be focused. You have to let that childhood dream go for a minute and just focus on the game.
‘For many of us it’s a dream come true so we don’t want that dream to stop now. We want to keep going, keep pushing and keep doing the best we can.’
At just 22, there is still plenty of development ahead for Abraham and Lampard responded strongly in defence of his young forward when questioned in his own press conference about his scoring record in the big games.
‘It depends what you classify as a big game,’ responded the boss. ‘If you want to talk about Lille away, a difficult Champions League game, that’s a big game for me. If you want to talk about every game in the Premier League, that’s a big game for me.
‘Tammy has scored a big number of goals. He’s second in the rankings for a reason, he scored a goal in Europe, he scored for his country recently. I have no fear about that.’
Abraham himself claimed his insistence on improvement stretched to regular YouTube sessions of watching the best strikers in Europe.
‘You have to improve,’ he added. ‘In my spare time, I go on YouTube and watch the best strikers in the world playing in this competition. For me it’s just about stealing their ideas and adding them to my game. I’ve watched many – Harry Kane, Sergio Aguero, Roberto Firmino, Robert Lewandowski.
‘I’ve grown up with this mentality where I always want to win. I’m a bubbly character in training and games and for me it’s just about getting the three points. If I can top that off with a goal then it’s a bigger achievement for me as well.
‘Playing against great teams we know there’s going to be less chances in games and that’s something I have to be ready for. When that chance comes, I have to try to grab it with two hands.
‘Every team in the Premier League or the Champions League is a good side so scoring goals against anyone, I’ll celebrate that like it’s the World Cup final!’