LONDON – When Cesar Azpilicueta is asked about his childhood club Osasuna or the Spanish national team, he can’t help but smile. All of that brings back good memories, but, during an interview with EFE, he quickly focuses on what is coming next, a very tough Champions League round-of-16 tie against Atletico Madrid.
Chelsea’s captain believes his team has a good chance against the Spanish rival, although he realizes they will need to execute their game plan perfectly in the next two matches against Diego Simeone’s squad.
What was the team doing wrong with previous coach Frank Lampard?
It’s obvious that the results haven’t been positive. But lately, we have gained ground. We at least need to be in those positions (towards the top of the Premier League), fighting to compete in the Champions League. The best is always demanded of a club like Chelsea and we have to be at the top.
What differences do you see between Lampard and (actual coach) Thomas Tuchel?
Each manager is different and he has come with clear ideas. We’ve changed our system. Now it is football based on control, both when defending and when attacking, trying to find opportunities with many players attacking. Getting a balance in defense, trying to get back the ball as quickly as possible, allowing us to attack. I think the team has proven it is solid and we have had many goal opportunities despite not having scored on some of the occasions we should have.
Is this what Chelsea needed? Stability?
In the end, that consistency and confidence of the results we are having with the new system we’re playing, dominating all the games we have played… That’s important. When you create those relationships with your teammates on the pitch, knowing how to use your strengths is important. I think the team will continue to grow. We have a great squad, both in number and quality and I have no doubt the team will grow and progress.
The Champions League is the only big title missing from your resume. Excited about the opportunity?
I try to stay positive. If you live in fear, you won’t go anywhere. In the end, yes, every chance that goes by is a lost opportunity, we know opportunities are limited, but I have that hope. I think it’s the title that everyone (dreams of) when you’re a kid, you watch the matches, hear the music, the Champions League… It’s something I will always want to achieve and give it my best. If you want to be the best, you have to face the best teams in Europe. Atletico Madrid is one of them and we need a perfect qualifying round to move past it and keep going.