‘The important thing is how it ends’ - Azpi compares Spain’s Euro 2020 start to Champions League triumph

In the build-up to Spain’s final group game against Slovakia, Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta has been discussing how a slow start can quickly be forgotten once momentum gathers, particularly in knockout football.

The defender has yet to feature at Euro 2020 for La Roja, who have drawn both their opening matches in Group E, leaving them third and needing a victory in Seville on Wednesday.

Luis Enrique’s side have been criticised in some quarters for a lack of penetration in the final third, which culminated in their opening goalless draw with Sweden, as well as a 1-1 stalemate against Poland at the weekend.

Yet a win later this week would secure a place in the knockout round and Azpilicueta believes that could act as the springboard for Spain at the tournament.

‘No team wins the Euros before it starts,’ he said at a press conference in the build-up to the game. ‘The important thing is how it ends and I know this from the Champions League this season.

‘This group has the quality and confidence to face the challenges. We come from a couple of games where the result has not been so good and now we have to take it as a new challenge.

‘The choice is not to give up, as it was in our case with Chelsea. That makes you learn that you have to fight to the end. This is very long and you all have to move in the same direction.’

Atletico Madrid’s Marcos Llorente has started both Spain matches at right-back, keeping Azpilicueta out of the side, but the 31-year-old’s renowned team ethic means he is only focused on the collective ahead of Wednesday’s big game against Slovakia.

‘I came with the aim of contributing as much as possible to the team,’ he continued. ‘We have a coaching staff that seeks the best for the team.

‘Like Marcos Llorente, I have also had to play in positions other than my usual one. From my position, I can only encourage him, support him and always be on the side of the coach’s decisions.

‘The dressing room is really looking forward to the game. We would have liked the situation to be better but we have it in our hands. The best thing about football is depending on yourself and this is what we have. It will be like a knockout match.’