Cesar Azpilicueta is no stranger to Chelsea versus Liverpool encounters.
Although we wait to see if the club captain and experienced defender will be in the team selected for the latest encounter between these clubs, with him having been a late substitute in the opening win at Brighton, he remains ideally placed to assess last year’s four meetings between the sides (which had an array of results), the contest down the years and what the Blues need to do to match up to the Reds this time around.
‘It is a rivalry between Chelsea and Liverpool which we have had from a long time ago,’ Azpilicueta acknowledges, ‘in the Champions League back in the day, and in the league, the Carabao Cup and the FA Cup, so when you arrive at these kind of games, now they are the current champions and Chelsea is a club that wants to be at the top, we want to be back at our best.
‘So it is up to us to raise our level to compete against them and play our football. With the ambition and determination with which we have started the new season., we have to go for everything and it is a big test early in the season.
‘It is a big game so everybody is looking forward to it. The preparations have gone well and we have tried to get into the best shape possible for this game.’
Looking back specifically to last season, Cesar highlights the big lead the champions had at the top of the table and that the emphasis is on Chelsea to raise our game.
‘In one of the games we have beaten them and some we have lost,’ he adds, ‘but the games were quite even and we have competed very well. In the end what makes the difference is to be solid in both boxes and hopefully this time we can get this right and be efficient when we are up front, and be solid at the back because they have a really big threat. They are a team that has been playing together for a long time so we have to be at our best level for sure.’
Despite not starting the skipper in the first game, Frank Lampard has this weekend emphasised what an important player he remains and praised his captaincy. Azpilicueta himself reflects on his rise to that important role.
‘It means a lot because when I arrived back in 2012 I did not have the status of a big signing but I had confidence in myself, I had confidence from the club, from the different managers through the years.
‘So I felt always that I could perform and I could settle as a person as well. I felt always that I could fight for my place so through the years I have met a lot of players and staff and it has been part of my life. I enjoy coming here training, everything that goes on around the club, all the work that we do with the community. I feel really proud of being the captain of this club and I always try to give my best.’