Carney Chukwuemeka will be looking forward to this weekend’s match as much as anyone as his former club Aston Villa head to Stamford Bridge tomorrow, and the 19-year-old midfielder has spoken exclusively to the matchday programme about his journey to this point.
Chukwuemeka has long been seen as one of the hottest prospects in English football and, in a wide-ranging interview, he explains how he has had to learn to live with that spotlight from a young age.
'It was a great feeling but at the time my head was at the top, so no one could bring my confidence down, which was good. Even if I made mistakes, my head was still at the top. I had to remain humble, though, always. Whether I was training, playing, I made sure I was still working hard despite all this interest. It got to a time when I blocked it out really and said, ‘Just let the football do the talking’, because I knew anything could happen in an instant.'
Carney also spoke about the positive feeling at Chelsea after an uptick in form prior to the international break, and how that has fed enthusiasm for the rest of the campaign.
'In training now, everyone seems so confident and you can see the team spirit is there, the bond is there. There’s no one that feels left out, which is what you need in a team. We’re still a work in progress type thing, but we’re definitely going in the right direction now. I feel like everyone’s building chemistry now, things are getting more natural, players are understanding each other more. Everyone wants to achieve the same thing, which is winning trophies here.'
Elsewhere in the programme, ITV football commentator Sam Matterface discusses how he feel in love with the Blues from the Shed as a schoolboy in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
'When I was younger, we wanted to be as close to the pitch as possible,' he says. 'We would run down to the front of the Shed, standing with our faces right up against the fences that were erected at the time.'
We also bring you the latest columns from Graham Potter, Cesar Azpilicueta, Emma Hayes and the Academy coaching staff, not to mention all the facts, stats and info you could need on the game at hand, as Pat Nevin offers his insights on Chelsea v Aston Villa ties through the Premier League era.
As ever, there is plenty of nostalgia for you as well. We look back on the 1997/98 campaign and Rick Glanvill focuses his sights on a game against Derby County that season that epitomised the idea of ‘sexy football’, and Hernan Crespo’s time at Chelsea gets some retrospective attention in Worth Another Look.
Don’t forget to pick up your copy from one of the programme sellers around the stadium, or order online from our publishing partner Reach Sport to have it delivered to your door.