As the training ground fills up again with players with different international tales to tell, Petr Cech describes the mentality at the business end of the season, and looks forward to the hosting of Brentford and Real Madrid…
Last week I discussed World Cup qualifiers and now the latest ones have been played, we, like other clubs, have players with mixed fortunes returning.When you have these play-off games, these qualifiers, these last games of a ‘do it or break it’ scenario, that's something which is always difficult for any player and if it goes the wrong way, obviously it's disappointing. But for any player you have to move on and you come back to your club.The good thing about that now is that you arrive back at a crunch time in the season when any disappointments can be put aside a little bit.You come to the club, there are different people, different environments and different competitions and that might help you with the initial disappointment. Of course the disappointment is still there but the shift in the motivation and the shift in the competitions helps.We have the players coming back and in our position with postponed games and cup matches, we have a huge amount of games to be played in a short period of time. This is where you need everybody in that run-in to be fit and in a good place to finish the season the best possible way with the best possible results.
Now we reach the point where every game matters, every game becomes almost like a final to achieve the goals you have left to play for. That's what is ahead of us and this diversity of people coming from qualifiers, happy having reached the World Cup or upset not having done so, that's something you deal with and the different environment and hopefully the successful games will make people move on.
The delighted and the disappointed
Edou Mendy and Christian Pulisic have joined those going to the World Cup but unfortunately Jorginho will not be.Edou had a difficult play-off because Senegal played Egypt in a repeat of the final of the Africa Cup of Nations which they won, and this game again came to penalties. We could all see how much pressure that put on the players because there was a lot of penalties missed in that shoot-out. In the end, Edou now has another big tick on his CV, going to his first World Cup which is amazing because everybody wants to do that. He ticks another box in the amazing year-and-a-half he's had.
Congratulations go to all the players who managed to go through and book a place, and commiserations go to all those who missed out.Commiserations from me also go to the Czech team. I was hoping I would not still be a member of the last squad who managed to get to the World Cup. I was hoping that they would be able to get there but it wasn't to be.That’s football and in professional sport, sometimes it gives you an amazing feeling, sometimes it gives you a headache and sometimes it disappoints you, but that's the beauty of sport. You never know what can happen.
Good to be busy
Now at this time as a player you can focus purely on your club. There is no more travelling for internationals and I always say when you reach the end of March and the beginning of April and you have so many games, it means you've been doing well.At Chelsea our recent history has mostly been that from April onwards you have semi-finals, finals, the Champions League, and you have games to play to finish as high as possible in the league. You never know what can happen in the last two months of the season.
Now is an exciting time for everybody. Of course it's going to be hard with the amount of games in a short period of time, but that's something everybody will have to work with and hopefully we will find the right way to make the most of it.
Really looking forward to Real with fans
We now have two home games in a week and for Brentford, the first will be special because it’s a London derby and in terms of the Premier League, this one has never happened before at Stamford Bridge. Playing there is a different matter for us but after the international break where everybody travels, comes back and you have to switch back to normal for the Premier League, having a home game is usually better because you have your supporters and you don't have to travel far.It’s one of those games where you have to win to restart the rhythm. You try to start where you left off and we left off with six wins on the bounce so hopefully we can pick that run up and carry on.Then in the Champions League we have another special game because we play the team who has won that competition the most times, and the most time in recent years.We are the holders, we met Real Madrid last year when we managed to knock them out, so it’s special to play them again, but this time it is great that it will be with fans. This is the massive difference for me.
It is amazing that Chelsea have competed in the Champions League in 18 of the past 20 seasons yet until last season we never played Real Madrid. It was almost unbelievable that we always avoided each other, and then the first occasion you play one of the most successful teams you have no fans because of the pandemic!So I'm really pleased firstly that we can have home support, these kind of games are for the fans, and secondly that we can play the return at the Bernabeu which is now back being used although it is not fully finished. It is a huge difference between playing the away game at their training ground or at the Bernabeu, which is one of my favourite stadiums along with Wembley.I was there with Sparta Prague in the Champions League when I was 19 and I really loved playing in the stadium. So I'm looking forward to going back there and hopefully we'll have a successful game there as a team.