Chelsea captain César Azpilicueta — matchday captain, technically, as Gary Cahill is still the official club captain — has had plenty of practice recently in giving the right soundbites after disappointing and even embarrassing losses. They usually involved some sort of apology and a promise to do better.
After Sunday’s loss to Everton, which halted Chelsea’s newfound momentum, Azpi chose a slightly different tact however. This time, he delivered a message of encouragement, of positive intentions, of belief and confidence. Three points dropped at Goodison hurts, just as the two points dropped at home against Wolves did, but we fight on.
“We missed a chance to get points and every time you don’t get the three points you put yourself in a more difficult position. There is still a lot of games to play and we are going to fight because we cannot miss Champions League qualification.”
“If we had won the [last] two games we would be third going into the international break and we could have said we were already in the Champions League. Obviously with five more points we could have been much better.”
Chelsea may be sixth, but are certainly not out of it just yet. The gap to Spurs in third is just four points, and there are eight games remaining.
And then there’s also the backdoor into the Champions League. Chelsea have a relatively easy — dangerous word, I know — into the final. We avoided both Napoli and Arsenal on our side of the bracket. Slavia Prague and one of Benfica or Eintracht Frankfurt are certainly beatable enough opposition over two legs.
Like others on the team, Azpi isn’t giving up either competition in favor of the other, which is the right approach.
“I don’t see just the Europa League as the only way of being in the Champions League, because Chelsea’s place is not to be sixth in the Premier League so I cannot accept this.”
“There is a way of going into the Champions League, it is a trophy, and we will play until the end but we are not in a position in the league where you can say we are not going to reach the Champions League spots.”
-César Azpilicueta; source: FourFourTwo
Chelsea have a clear goal and a clear path to get there. It’s not been the best season and questions abound regarding just about every facet of the club, from the front office to the backroom, from the pitch to the training ground, from tactics to mentality. In the next two months, we have a chance to answer some of those questions and prove some narratives wrong.