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Azpilicueta on Iniesta’s history-changing goal, how to stop Messi, Hazard’s importance

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The Chelsea vice-captain sat down with Diario AS for an interview ahead of Tuesday night’s massive clash between Chelsea and Barcelona.

Chelsea v Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Semi Final Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Tom Henning Ovrebo may have been the ultimate villain of the piece in the 2009 Champions League semifinal between Chelsea and Barcelona, but let’s not overlook the man who plunged the dagger deep into Chelsea hearts in the third minute of stoppage time of the second leg.

Here’s the awful moment, if you can bear to watch it. We apologize if you had successfully blocked it out, though perhaps you’ve been able to project happier memories over it, like Drogba or Ramires or Torres scoring in 2012.

Back then, almost a decade ago now, Andrés Iniesta was not quite the legend that he is today, but this goal was instrumental in changing not only the two teams’ history (or Pep Guardiola’s as manager, for example), but his own personal journey as well. International teammate Cesar Azpilicueta, who was just a teenager at Osasuna back then, talked about what it still means to this day in his interview with Spanish paper AS ahead of tonight’s game.

“I remember that I was in Osasuna when he [Iniesta] scored that goal to take Barcelona to the final in Rome. That changed his history so much and I think the Chelsea fans still feel that in their hearts.”

“I think Andres continues to generate nightmares and I do not think he will get a good reception.”

Then again, not one Barcelona’ player is likely to get a good reception tonight. And rightfully so. This is the biggest game of the season, and not just for the players or the coaches, but for the fans as well. We’re all going to have to be up for this.

Preventing Iniesta from repeating such heroics will be vital, though perhaps not as vital as stopping the unstoppable Messi. When this question was put to Conte in his pre-match press conference, the Chelsea boss just smiled and shook his head. Azpilicueta’s response was to resort to platitudes. When you’re talking about the best player in the history of the game, there’s little else you can do.

“By playing the game of our dreams and being together. There is no other way. He is a different player from the rest.”

-Cesar Azpilicueta; source: AS via Metro

Of course, Chelsea do have at least one potential game-winner as well in Eden Hazard. Azpi certainly did not hesitate to big up his good friend.

“[Yes, Messi can unbalance the tie] and Eden Hazard can too.”

-Cesar Azpilicueta; source: AS

Messi vs. Hazard, for just the second time in history. The first one saw Argentina beat Belgium 1-0 in the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup. As Hazard said in his pre-match press conference, we’re all hoping to do better than that this time around.

And we certainly will if Azpilicueta can help it. He may or may not start with the captain’s armband (depends on whether Gary Cahill plays or not), but unlike many others in the squad, there is no love lost between him and his fellow Spanish compatriots. When the subject of even just greeting the likes of Iniesta was brought up, Azpi revealed his Proper Chels bleeding blue heart.

“Let’s see who plays and if he comes out. For me to wear the captain’s armband at Chelsea is still a thing that really amazes me. That responsibility makes you improve and be even more demanding.”

-Cesar Azpilicueta; source: AS via Google Translate

We’re often reminded of one of Jose Mourinho’s most famous prognostications, about how he could win the Champions Leauge if he had 11 Azpilicuetas. Sadly, we only have the 1. Hopefully that will be enough!