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Azpilicueta: Effort, even if not playing, is why we won big

After yesterday’s result in Spain, club captain Cesar Azpilicueta was proud of the team’s performance and the depth in our squad, as emphasised by Olivier Giroud’s four goals against Sevilla.

It was a successful return to his home country for Azpilicueta as the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium in the south of Spain played host to a French renaissance. Our skipper was back in the line-up as part of nine changes to the side that drew with Spurs on Sunday – the headline, of course, being Giroud’s second start of the season.

Azpilicueta provided our first clear chance of the encounter, picking out Christian Pulisic within the first five minutes, before our France striker took centre stage, becoming the first Chelsea player to score four goals in a single game since a certain Frank Lampard and the oldest hat-trick hero in the history of the Champions League.

‘I think there were plenty of things to be proud of,’ said Azpilicueta. 'We’re really pleased with how we performed against a team who are the Europa League champions and have some great strengths.

‘We managed to dominate the game, which isn’t easy against a team of their calibre and with their top-level experience. Even though we were under pressure from time to time, we always kept that control, and that helped us win the match.’

A veteran of seven Champions League campaigns with Chelsea, having joined a few months after we won the trophy, Azpilicueta saved his highest praise for Giroud, but said his long-time colleague’s perfect display highlighted the hard work that has been put in by players up and down the teamsheet.

‘We have some who maybe aren’t getting the minutes that they had in previous seasons, myself included,’ he said. ‘But I think our effort day-to-day has been fantastic from everyone.

‘As a squad, we’re all working very hard. We’ve seen that reflected in Olivier Giroud scoring four goals in a Champions League game. That doesn’t happen every day – but it doesn’t happen by itself either. A lot of work that went into that.’

The captain was also ecstatic with how the Blues went about our defensive duties. Starting alongside Andreas Christensen, Toni Rudiger and Emerson Palmieri in a full reshuffle of the back four, Azpilicueta led the side to our eighth clean sheet in 10 matches – another marker of our improvement on last season.

And the full-back believes our impressive start to 2020/21 allows us to dream of remaining key protagonists – perhaps more – in both the Champions League and Premier League.

‘We’re a new team, so we have to keep working hard and take things day by day. But we’re happy with the position we’re in at the start of December and I think it bodes well,’ he said.

‘The ambition at Chelsea has always been to do the maximum possible. I think last season was about adapting – it was a time for transition. Now, we have more experience, new players, and a more solid group. We have plenty of strength in depth in our squad, with all of us trying to do our best and give the coach plenty of options.

‘Let’s take things step by step,’ Azpilicueta added. ‘We have achieved everything that has been asked of us so far this season. So now, why not? Our aim is to win every game.’

There’s no rest as Chelsea host Leeds United on Saturday night. It will be our first top-flight fixture against our historic rivals for over 16 years – and, with 2,000 of our own heading back to Stamford Bridge, our first in front of a home crowd for nearly nine months.

Then on Tuesday, we complete our Champions League group by hosting Krasnodar, with the early Christmas present of first place and a seeding for the last-16 draw already wrapped up.

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