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César Azpilicueta pays tribute to Ray Wilkins, rallies troops ahead of West Ham derby

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Chelsea v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

In the previous weekend, Chelsea went on to lose to city rivals Tottenham at Stamford Bridge for the first time in 28 years. However, the bad result on the pitch was nothing compared to the loss of the club’s youngest ever captain and icon Ray Wilkins, who passed away at the age of 61. Many figures from the footballing world offered their condolences and so did Chelsea’s vice-captain César Azpilicueta.

Speaking to the club website, Azpilicueta paid his tribute to the Chelsea legend.

“I would like to personally pay tribute to Ray and for what he did for football, especially at our club, and my condolences go out to his family.”

“I think the way he supported and loved the club was fantastic and, as well as a minute’s applause, I think winning the game would be the best way to say thanks to him and his family for everything he has done for Chelsea.”

“We all know how important he was for this club and especially for a lot of our players, as he played a big role for them.”

“We have young players here that have come through the academy that knew him very well and even though I didn’t get to meet him personally, I am fully aware of what he did for this football club. Everybody has spoken only good words about him and people hold him very highly in their thoughts.”

As emotional as this time is, we must focus on what’s ahead of us and that comes in the form of another London derby as Chelsea face West Ham at Stamford Bridge. After losing to Spurs and dropping 11 points behind the North Londoners (courtesy of their 2-1 win over Stoke City today), Chelsea have no other option but to win against the Hammers.

“It’s a massive game for us. It’s another London derby and we want to get back to winning ways. Last weekend was a tough afternoon for us and since the game finished, we have been itching to get to the next game.”

“We’ve had to wait for Sunday for a little while, but hopefully we can get off to a good start and get the three points.”

“We know West Ham are a strong side with good players. They are fighting against relegation but they are still a good team. We have to focus on ourselves and bounce back from the defeat [against Tottenham] and get back to winning ways as soon as possible. Tomorrow would be the perfect time to do just that.”

“West Ham will come here and make things difficult for us but we are at home and we want to get the victory for our supporters. We need everyone. We have tough games ahead and there is only six or seven weeks until the end of the season.”

It would be a perfect time to do it, indeed. Chelsea’s form in 2018 has just gotten from bad to worse as the club has won consecutive games only once across all competitions this year, which came in the form of a 3-0 win over West Bromwich in the Premier League and a 4-0 win over Hull City in the FA Cup.

For a club with the aspirations and stature of Chelsea, this isn’t good enough. We must improve and put together a good string of performances as the Blues look to finish this season on a high.

“Everyone is pushing to get into the team and get the results we want. There is still hope to get into the top four and there are many points still to take. It’s a lot harder now, that’s just the reality of things, but we will always fight until the end. We want to have a perfect end by winning every game for the rest of the season, as that is our target. Then it’s down to the rest of the teams to stay ahead of us.”

“Everyone has been frustrated with the amount of games we have lost this season and that is why we haven’t been able to retain our Premier League title. But we are continuing to fight until the end of the season and to give our all to try and finish in the top four.”

-César Azpilicueta; Source: Chelsea FC

In the eyes of many, Chelsea finishing in the top four looks like nothing more than a pipe dream. But bigger turnarounds have happened in football, some of them with the Blues beating the odds against them.

To repeat this feat, we need to focus on ourselves and sort out the issues behind this mediocre season. And what better way to begin our ascension than to beat a city rival, right?