Cesar out to conquer Sunderland and soften Euro flop heartache
08:56 07 December 2012
Chelsea’s marauding Spanish right-back Cesar Azpilicueta accepts that tomorrow’s match at Sunderland is vital if the side are to push on and win back their place in next season’s Champions League.
On Wednesday night the Blues became the first reigning champions of Europe to crash out of the tournament at the first hurdle, despite a 6-1 win over Nordsjaelland, because results elsewhere went against them.
It doesn’t end their interests on the continent but means the west Londoners must now face up to being drawn in the Europa League knockout stages on Decemeber 20.
“The Europa League is a big trophy,” Azpilicueta said.
“It’s not the Champions League but everyone wants to win it, we need to have the ambition to win it.”
But before that, Chelsea will have a couple of months to concentrate on the Premier League and they face a tricky match in the north-east against Sunderland.
But the 23-year-old defender, who moved to Stamford Bridge from French side Marseille in the summer for an undisclosed fee estimated in the region of £7million, knows that getting all three points won’t be easy.
Chelsea’s last league win was a 4-2 triumph against Spurs eight games ago.
At that time they were top of the league but they go into tomorrow’s encounter at Sunderland in third place, 10 points adrift of leaders Manchester United.
“We are coming from a bad situation, where we lost at West Ham [last weekend],” Azpilicueta said.
“The last month has not being easy, the results have not been positive, but I know about Sunderland and I know what to expect from them.”
Kick-starting their league form is vital if Chelsea are to resurrect their European reputation. It took a long time to come, but once earned, it enabled the Blues to attract the world’s top talent like Eden Hazard and Oscar.
“I have played in the final 16 of the Champions League with Marseille and the last eight. I want to get closer with Chelsea,” Azpilicueta said.
“I’ve played some games and I am looking to play more. I came here to win trophies and I need to keep working hard for the team.”
Azpilicueta is confident that under-fire interim boss Rafael Benitez can turn around their recent slump in form.
He said: “He [Benitez] talks to me and the players on things to correct in order to improve the team.”
Aware that former boss Roberto Di Matteo remains a firm favourite with the fans, who have been chanting his name at every game since he was sacked last month, the defender said: “Di Matteo had confidence in me from the beginning.
“I am not the one to talk about this [the booing of Benitez], I am a Chelsea player - all the players wants to do is win games just like the fans.
“The fans call Robbie’s name but we are playing on the pitch and focusing on the game. If we win the fans will be happier – it’s win, win, win.”