Ahead of our FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City, Hakim Ziyech has given his view on our opponents as well as discussing how he and the rest of Chelsea’s new signings this season have been improving over the course of the campaign.
Ziyech claims to enjoy playing in big games, so he must be feeling pretty spoiled at the moment, as we follow up Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final with a trip to Wembley to face the Premier League leaders in the last four of the FA Cup, and the Moroccan international is eager to make it a perfect week for the Blues by going through to the next round for a second time.
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‘For us it’s a nice week so far,’ he said. ‘I think we can finish the whole week with a good result again on the weekend and, hopefully, then we can say it’s a complete week.
‘I like to play the big games – I think that’s the same for every other footballer – but I just see them as another game. It’s a semi-final right now, we will do everything that is in our power to reach the final and how we do it doesn’t matter.’
Having already faced Manchester City in our 3-1 Premier League defeat in January, though, Ziyech is under no illusions about the difficultly of the task which faces us if we are to book our place in the FA Cup final.
‘They are leading the league and they are really impressive this season, the way they play. You can see they have individual players who can do crazy things. As a team, they can do a lot of things and it’s just the way of how they play football.
‘I played them in January here and I think in the first half the game was already over. What I can remember is when they speed up the tempo, they are a difficult team to beat.’
As a newcomer to English football this season, this is Ziyech’s first experience of competing in the FA Cup, and the winger admits it has not been an easy adaptation to this country for him given the interruptions caused by injury.
However, he feels it has been a challenge which could turn out to be beneficial for him in the long-run.
‘It’s a difficult season, with everything around adaptation and injuries, playing then a couple of games not playing,’ the 28-year-old conceded. ‘It’s a difficult season but I think for every player sometimes it could help to have these seasons because you have to work harder and keep improving every single day.
‘It’s about the rhythm and sometimes you think you have the rhythm then you get a set-back. It took some time and I have to continue to believe in myself. I’m not loud about it but I have to keep going and keep working and the rest will come by itself.’
Of course, Ziyech was not the only new arrival in attacking positions for Chelsea at the start of this season, with Timo Werner and Kai Havertz both joining him at Stamford Bridge, and he feels we are now starting to see all three of them finding their feet in west London.
‘We can see already that we are feeling each other in training and how everyone wants to play, or what is someone’s strength and where they feel comfortable, with or without the ball. So those things we know from each other and if you saw the game against Atletico Madrid at home when all three of us played, I think we had a good game at that moment.
‘We had our time to come in and see how it is and now I think it’s time for us to perform. For new people, it always takes some time. Everywhere I’ve been, it’s always been like that, and for me it’s no different.’