Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta has admitted that he is struggling, mentally and physically, with the team’s workload as they enter the critical stage of the season.
Victory at Aston Villa would effectively seal their place in the top four and the all-important qualification for the Champions League.
But the game comes just three days after they played Tottenham Hotspur, and four before their Europa League final with Benfica at the climax of an exhausting season in which the team have played 66 matches. The right-back joined from Marseilles last summer and admitted it has taken some adjusting to the rigours of the English game.
“Physically and mentally it is difficult, because every three days you have a massive game,” Azpilicueta said. “We are fighting for every trophy. So you don’t have time to think about the last game. You always need to be focused on the next game. It’s the first time I have played a lot of games like this, every three days.
“We have played finals for four or five months now. Every week we have a massive game, in the FA Cup, Capital One Cup, Premier League or Europa League. We had this target and now we have three more finals – against Villa, Benfica and then Everton.
“I think that playing for Chelsea you have the responsibility to win every game. Every trophy – we were fighting for seven trophies at the start of the season. The physical side of it is different. The second half of the season has been crazy. Different to France.”
Life at Chelsea is frantic off the pitch too. Azpilicueta will soon be working under his third Chelsea manager and he hopes for a more stable future.
“It is easier to have the same manager, but we need to be focused on our job. The club makes the decision about the manager, and we need to do our job on the pitch. If we win trophies, then hopefully we will have the same manager for years.”
Azpilicueta has enjoyed working under his compatriot Rafael Benitez, especially having made his full Spain debut in February.
“Rafa did a good job here, he gave me a lot of confidence. I started playing in the last month with Robbie [Di Matteo], so I improved since the first day with him. And afterwards when Rafa came, I learned a lot of things. Positioning, tactics, reading the game, the best way to do the right things.”