Our Danish defender discusses centre-back competition, chasing down Leicester, his Chelsea future and feeling fit ahead of tonight's trip to West Ham...
After declaring himself ‘fit and ready to play’ ahead of our trip across the capital to West Ham this evening, Andreas Christensen claims Chelsea are looking up at the challenge of leapfrogging Leicester City in third, as opposed to glancing nervously over their shoulders at the chasing pack led by Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Frank Lampard’s side could move into the top three for the first time since a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace in early November if results go our way tonight. The Foxes travel to Everton having not won yet since the restart and now just a point above the Blues in the Premier League table.
Christensen, who missed the weekend win at Leicester with a hip injury, knows the good work of the past 10 days could be wasted if the team do not continue their fine form, with the margins for error increasingly slender as we enter the final few weeks of the delayed season finale.
‘We’ve started great in these games we’ve just played but I think we’re focusing a bit on ourselves as well,’ the 24-year-old says in the build-up to our derby in east London. ‘We know last week was massive [beating Manchester City] but the three points aren’t worth anything if we mess up later.
‘We’re just focusing on each other and keeping our level, keep doing the things we’ve done so far. We’ll look forward and look up and see if we can put pressure on Leicester and catch them.’
A third-place finish would surpass all expectations of this campaign and lay down a marker that Lampard’s team could challenge for the title once again in years to come.
‘That’s what we’re working for now,’ admits Christensen. ‘If we keep up the work we’ve done so far, it’s only been exciting and we’re growing. That’s where we want to be.
‘We’re hungry and if we’re on the same page we’ll push each other when we’re not. I don’t see why not. We’ve got the players to do it.’
Chelsea have won three from three since the restart, with the Danish defender standing out at the heart of our backline in last week’s crucial victory over Man City. Christensen is typically humble about individual praise, perhaps because he is aware that competition for centre-back positions is fierce and any drop in performance levels could see others come in to take his place.
The Academy graduate has started 17 league games this term, two fewer than Kurt Zouma and two more than both Fikayo Tomori and Toni Rudiger.
‘That’s kind of just what people expect you to do and that’s what I expect from myself every game,’ he says of his display against City. ‘I know I had a great game and that’s the level I want to be at every time.
‘We all want to play every game. All the defenders have played a similar amount of games and you feel good with whoever you’re playing with because you’ve played many games with each other.
‘It’s a healthy thing and it shows how much the gaffer trusts in each of us because when one’s lost that position, the other one has been pushing and doing great. It’s very nice, healthy competition and we’re trying to make each other better.’
West Ham have proved to be tricky opponents for us in recent years, with their victory at the Bridge earlier in the season a particularly painful memory.
‘It’s a long time ago,’ notes our number four. ‘I think we’ve come back quite strong in the beginning [of the restart]. We feel strong and confident so we want to go out, play our game and keep doing what we’ve been doing so far with a lot of energy.’
Christensen’s own future at the club has occasionally been the subject of media speculation but the Denmark international insists that after eight years at the club, he feels at home and has never considered leaving.
‘I’ve always had my eyes at Chelsea,’ he insists emphatically. ‘I’ve had my contract, I’ve always expected to finish that and I’ve always dreamed of even more than that.
‘I’ve never looked anywhere else. I’ve never doubted my situation. Obviously it was a different situation last season but I still love being here.’
Chelsea eyes can’t help but wander to the future, with Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech officially joining the club today, even if they cannot feature until next season.
‘I played against Werner quite a few times when I was in Germany so I know what he can do and what sort of player he is,’ Christensen says of his new team-mate. ‘I haven’t played against Ziyech but I’ve seen him a lot and I think they can both bring good things to the club. We’re all excited to see what they can bring.’
The evolution of Lampard’s young team has been impressive this season and the arrival of new signings will only bolster the potential. Christensen believes the rebuilding project is running ahead of schedule and senses a hunger for future success.
‘We are in a process but I think we are way ahead of time,’ he adds. ‘We know what we’re capable of. We feel very comfortable and confident at the moment. We have a good balance between experienced people and young, exciting talent and we’re all hungry to reach the same goals.’