Willian: Right approach required

Having been a pivotal figure in our two victories against Stoke City last season, Willian spoke to the official Chelsea website ahead of today's meeting with the Potters

If recent experiences are anything to go by, Willian has every reason to be relishing our trip to Stoke City this afternoon.

The Brazilian scored three goals over the course of our two meetings with Mark Hughes’ side last season, both of which ended with the Blues taking maximum points.

On New Year’s Eve, at Stamford Bridge, he hit a quick-fire second-half double as we recorded a 13th consecutive Premier League victory, while away from home, in March, he opened the scoring [pictured below] in a game which was settled by a last-gasp Gary Cahill strike.

Today’s fixture is the first of three big matches in the space of a week for Antonio Conte’s side, with a trip to Atletico Madrid to follow in the Champions League on Wednesday, before we entertain Manchester City next Saturday. Willian, who has featured in all but one of our games this season, explains what qualities we will need to show if we are to come out on top in Staffordshire.

‘Against Stoke it’s about competing physically, running and working for each other,’ says the 29-year-old. ‘We know we have the quality on the ball because we have top players but against them it’s not enough to just be effective in possession, you have to fight.

‘I expect a hard, physical contest. It’s always a difficult game away at Stoke but you have to be ready for these kind of opponents in the Premier League. They have many strong players and they work very hard off the ball, it will be tough.’

Willian has fond memories of the part he played in our triumphs over Stoke last season, with the victory in the Potteries undoubtedly one of the key moments in the title-winning campaign.

‘We beat them 4-2 at home, it was an exciting game to play in and a big win for us,’ he recalls. ‘I scored two goals in the second half and almost got a hat-trick, but the most important thing was that we won the game.

‘In the away game I scored again, this time with a free-kick. It was a huge result for us because at that time we were fighting with everything to make sure we stayed at the top of the table. We played really well right until the end and thankfully Gary scored a late winning goal.’

Despite a setback on the opening day of the season, it’s been an impressive start overall for Conte’s side who are currently third in the Premier League table, just three points behind pace-setters Manchester City and Manchester United.

The Blues have already overcome some very tough fixtures, most notably Tottenham and Leicester away, as well as scoring 19 goals in seven matches across all competitions.

‘Yes, we are in good form,’ acknowledges Willian. ‘We’ve improved a lot since the first game and we are playing really well. We won our first Champions League game and also went through in the Carabao Cup.

‘In our last league game we drew against Arsenal but we did a good job against them because it was a tough game, so we have to keep going in the same way. We face a hard game against Stoke now and we have to be ready for it.’

The 5-1 Carabao Cup win over Nottingham Forest in midweek enabled Conte to give some of the younger, less experienced members of his squad some invaluable minutes on the pitch with the likes of Kenedy and Charly Musonda, who both started and scored, responding in the perfect manner.

Willian believes the fact we possess such strength in depth can only work in our favour as we enter a testing period.

‘It's very important for us to show we have a strong squad, not just 11, 12 or 13 players,’ he says. 

‘It was great for Charly and Kenedy to come into the team, play well and score. It will be good for their confidence and I was really happy for them.

‘Now we face three big games, all like finals. It’s important we win these matches because then we have the international break, but we are ready.'