Kurt Zouma has called on his team-mates to play with personality and character as they prepare for a crucial group decider in the Champions League.
The defender was speaking ahead of our meeting with Lille at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night, a game the Blues need to win in order to secure a place in the last-16. A draw might be good enough but would rely on the result in the Ajax versus Valencia game going in our favour. However, following one win in five matches in all competitions, Zouma believes the team must show a reaction when his countrymen visit west London.
‘Every game you feel a different pressure,’ he told the assembled reporters at Cobham at this afternoon's media conference. ‘We just know the game tomorrow is important and we just want to win it to go through.
‘It’s like a final for us, a must-win match. The results from the games before we didn’t keep a clean sheet but we have been playing well. In the game against Ajax away, we played good. The game against them at home was crazy but we came back so we showed great character. Tomorrow is a different story – if we win, we go through and that’s what we want.’
Responding to the boss
Frank Lampard has also urged his players to show stronger personality after being disappointed with that aspect of the performance in the weekend defeat to Everton in the Premier League.
‘We were frustrated with the defeat of course,’ admitted Zouma. ‘I think that’s a message for us to answer tomorrow. We have to play with personality and show character because we lost at the weekend. It’s clear he wants to motivate us and we’re already motivated for this game.
‘He wants us to be more responsible in the games and take more risks. He knows the quality that we have in the squad with very talented players. We have to play the game like we play in training, be good, take risks and play without fear.
‘We’ve maybe had a lack of communication in the games sometimes but we have a very good team so we can bounce back. We won seven games in a row not long ago. We need to be more clinical as well and stay as a team.’
Zouma also offered an insight into Lampard’s mood and message after a defeat.
‘He hates a defeat, he hates it,’ the 25-year-old said. ‘He’s the kind of manager who comes to us when we make a mistake and tells us but he’s very calm as well. He understands the game because he’s been involved in it for a long time and he’s there to give us advice.
'He’s the first one to say when we make a mistake and we try to make it right in the next game.’
Zouma was asked how important the return of his defensive colleague Toni Rudiger could be to help the Blues at the back. Our last clean sheet was at the start of November against Crystal Palace, while eight goals conceded in five Champions League games this season clearly represents room for improvement.
‘Rudiger is an important player for us,’ added Zouma. ‘He’s a very experienced player and we know the qualities he has. It’s good to have him back, he has no pain and he’s feeling good so he can help us in the games like every player in the squad.’
How to put things right
Zouma finished by explaining what work was going on at Cobham to improve communication and decision-making among the defence.
‘We’re all working together in training so we know each other,’ he added. ‘In the games, we just need to communicate all together in defence to keep more clean sheets. We’ve been doing quite well with the ball and it’s just without the ball that we need to be more decisive in our box.
‘We need to find reasons why we give away goals and don’t keep clean sheets so maybe it’s about communication, maybe tactically we’ve not been in the right positions at the right time. We’re working on that and tomorrow we need to make it right.’