Marcos Alonso knows Chelsea cannot afford many more setbacks in our quest to secure Champions League qualification for next season, which is why bouncing back with a win in south London today is so imperative…
The Blues suffered our first defeat of the Thomas Tuchel era in unexpected fashion last weekend, going down 5-2 at the hands of West Brom, a result that gave West Ham the opportunity to leapfrog us into the top four of the Premier League.
However, an impressive performance and excellent result in the Champions League quarter-final in midweek swiftly expunged those bruises inflicted by the Baggies and, with four of the top six playing against each other this weekend, there is a clear chance to make up ground on those around us.
Having rotated with Ben Chilwell to start every other of our past seven matches, Alonso’s involvement has been much more frequent under Tuchel and the Spaniard believes the players have adapted well to the new head coach’s methods in his first 10 weeks in charge, even if there is plenty more progress to be made.
‘He’s done a great job since day one and as players we have taken on a lot of information in such a short period of time,’ noted the 30-year-old.
‘We are still working on it. There is still room for improvement and that’s what we need to focus on now. This team has great potential to do even better and hopefully we can sort that in the next few games and on the training ground.’
In this vibrant young Chelsea side, Alonso is now one of the old heads in the dressing room. Against Atletico Madrid in our recent Round of 16 home victory, he was the second-oldest starter, while winners’ medals in the Premier League, FA Cup and Europa League provide further evidence of the breadth of his experience.
It is that knowledge and expertise, particularly of high-pressure situations like a tight league run-in or latter-stage knockout ties, that Alonso hopes to pass on to his younger peers in the group.
‘The best way to teach them is with example – always giving everything in training and being humble on and off the pitch,’ he explained. ‘Sometimes it’s giving some tips on the pitch, trying to communicate, to be on the same page, and not just with young players but experienced ones as well.
‘We have a lot of potential and the experienced players try to get the best out of young players coming up. Hopefully they can be a great help for the team.’
The Blues have won our last six against Crystal Palace, our opponents in this evening’s tea-time clash near Croydon, including a topsy-turvy 3-2 triumph at Selhurst Park last season following the post-lockdown restart.
Back in October at Stamford Bridge, it was a slightly more comfortable 4-0 win but Alonso does not underestimate how tough the Eagles can be on their day, particularly given they are unencumbered by the threat of relegation once again.
‘With another good run of wins, we have a good chance,’ added the defender. ‘We were a bit lucky with the results last weekend and we cannot drop more points.
‘We need to keep winning games, counting three points at a time, and of course against Palace there will be a very good chance to get back to winning ways but it is always a difficult game against them.
‘They are a very good team with some good quality and they always try to make things hard. Obviously it’s a very important game for us and we will go for the three points.’