Edouard Mendy believes Chelsea’s industry and intensity were key to victory in the Champions League this week...
The Blues recorded an impressive 1-0 away win in the Round of 16 against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday night as Olivier Giroud’s sublime overhead kick settled a tight contest in Romania. For Mendy, it was the 16th clean sheet of his burgeoning Blues career and his fifth in Europe’s premier club competition, more than any other goalkeeper this campaign.
That owed much to the defensive performance of the players in front of him as the La Liga leaders failed to conjure a single shot on target at the Senegalese international’s goal.
The performance and result was also, according to the 28-year-old, a result of hard work, application and effort throughout the team.
‘It was tough but we won and that is what we wanted,’ he reflected.
‘The key to our success was the intensity in the game. We ran a lot, we kept the ball and they suffered.
‘It was a good game but it’s only half-time [in the tie] so we need to stay focused.’
Our recent run of shut-out success has coincided with Thomas Tuchel’s arrival as we have conceded just two goals in eight games since the German took the reins.
Mendy believes our new head coach’s honest and animated appraisals have been key to helping the players quickly understand his methods and instructions in the month since he took charge.
‘The coach gives confidence to all the players,’ he continued. ‘We know what he wants so when we are on the pitch, we have to show why he has chosen us.
‘He is very expressive and he shows when he likes something. When you do well on the pitch, every day at training and in the games, he pushes you. He stays positive but he also shows his determination, which is good for me and the team.’
Mendy sat out recent games against Barnsley in the FA Cup and Newcastle in the Premier League as Tuchel opted to hand Kepa Arrizabalaga an opportunity, while also affording our summer signing from Rennes some time to physically and psychologically recover from recent exertions.
The boss insisted after our victory over the Magpies at the start of last week that Mendy remained his number one but all three goalkeepers acknowledge the battle to start is renewed after each match.
‘I fight with Kepa but with Willy as well,’ insisted Mendy.
‘The coach has said that he needs three strong goalkeepers. We need to be ready and we have to show it to start on the pitch.’
‘It was a good game but it’s only half-time so we need to stay focused.’
— Edou Mendy
The fact we are only at the midway point of the last-16 tie is not the only reason for the celebrations to be cut short following our win in Bucharest. Manchester United and Liverpool are up next in the coming seven days, two games that could prove crucial in the battle for Champions League qualification as we enter the final third of the domestic season.
‘It is a very tough game,’ Mendy added about United’s visit to SW6 on Sunday. ‘We remember the first game and it was very tough because they play very well.
‘We play now at Stamford Bridge so we have to show that we want to win because it’s a really important game for the league.’