Kepa Arrizabalaga is one of a number of our players set to sample Champions League football for the first time when we host Valencia tomorrow, but the opposition from Spain will come as no surprise to the keeper.
That includes their players, some of whom are international colleagues of Kepa, and their new boss, Albert Celades, who recently spent four years in charge of Spain’s Under-21 side and has also been an assistant at senior level.
The former Real Madrid and Barcelona midfielder replaced Marcelinho, who last week was sacked after just over two years in the Valencia hotseat. Kepa doesn’t believe that will hinder there prospects at the Bridge tomorrow.
‘Valencia are always going to be a dangerous team,’ the 24-year-old said at a Cobham press conference this afternoon.
‘The circumstances are probably not the best to prepare for a game like this, but at times those circumstances make you show the kind of rage you have inside, and make you a more dangerous proposition.
‘I am going to be expecting the best type of Valencia performance. I know the team very well, I know they have some quality players.
‘They are a compact team who defend very well. They know how to make the best of their biggest strength, which is their counter-attacking ability, and they have some world-class players.’
Of our own strategy tomorrow, Kepa is hopeful of another exciting Chelsea performance to back up the fine victory at Wolves and get our European campaign off to the best possible start.
‘Regardless of the fact we’re a young team and it’s only September and there is a long way to go, we are going to play with energy and try and attack the opposition.
‘Many of the players in the team will be playing their first Champions League game but we’ve been waiting for this for a long time. We spent the whole of last year trying to qualify for the Champions League so we feel very enthusiastic.
‘We can’t wait to see the atmosphere at the Bridge and play in front of our fans in the most important European club competition.’
Kepa believes we are using a more direct approach this season compared to last, which is making games open with goals flying in at both ends. The Spaniard is confident we will soon stop conceding as regularly as we have been, such is his faith in the quality of players at our disposal.
‘It’s true that we’ve scored goals but we haven’t been able to get a clean sheet yet. We really want to achieve it as a team, because obviously if you keep one it makes it a lot easier to win football matches.
‘Last year we had a few more, but I’m sure if we continue to work hard we will get a clean sheet in our upcoming games. We have quality throughout the team, and that includes the defence.
‘We have total confidence in the players we have. We know we need to improve. We are just at the start of this process. We have got a new team, a new coach and there is a long way to go.
‘We don’t have much experience but that will grow as we play more games,’ added Kepa.
‘The players who have come up from the Academy this season have done very well. It’s great for the fans to see young players coming up like that.
‘It shows what an exciting future we have ahead of us. We can’t neglect the present as well, and we have a very impressive team for the present. It’s a strong side.’