Home Blues Cesar Azpilicueta targets incredible Chelsea record as Blues skipper launches bid for Club World Cup glory

Cesar Azpilicueta targets incredible Chelsea record as Blues skipper launches bid for Club World Cup glory

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CESAR AZPILICUETA is not the name you would think of as one of the best trophy collectors in English football.

But here in the UAE on Wednesday afternoon, the Chelsea captain will take the first step towards an unprecedented sweep.

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Chelsea’s Spanish defender Cesar Azpilicueta aims to complete an unbeatable collection of club silverware
Chelsea train in the United Arab Emirates as they bid for the Club World Cup trophy for the first time, completing a personal sweep for Azpilicueta

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Chelsea train in the United Arab Emirates as they bid for the Club World Cup trophy for the first time, completing a personal sweep for AzpilicuetaCredit: AP
Striker Romelu Lukaku prepares to face Saudi side Al Hilal

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Striker Romelu Lukaku prepares to face Saudi side Al HilalCredit: Getty
Hakim Ziyech, Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku prepare for the unknown

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Hakim Ziyech, Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku prepare for the unknownCredit: AP

Azpilicueta has won the Premier League, Champions League, Europa League, Super Cup, FA Cup and League Cup.

And finally, now for the Club World Cup trophy, which he failed to win in 2012 when Chelsea lost 1-0 to Brazil’s Corinthians in Japan.

Liverpool were England’s last winners in Qatar in 2019 – and now Azpilicueta is set to make history with the club he joined a decade ago.

Before facing Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal in today’s semi-final, the Spaniard said: “Everyone tries to create their own story at the club.

“Over the years we have seen many world-class players who have tried to help increase this club’s trophy cabinet.

“When the time comes, we want to make the most of it.

“And now it is true that we have our own opportunity to create club history, to win a trophy that nobody has won at Chelsea – I hope we are the ones who can do it.

“It’s very difficult to be at this tournament and after ten years, you realize how difficult it is. We lost the final to Corinthians, back then it was a different feeling as it was my first season at Chelsea.

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“We were in all the competitions and maybe it looked easier than it was.

“And then with more time you realize how difficult it is, first of all just qualifying.

“So we have to make the most of it, starting with this game. And I hope this bad experience helps us.

“We are really motivated and losing in 2012 hurt us a lot. This is the only competition the club has not won.

“Winning it for the first time would be huge. It means a lot to everyone, to us and to the fans. Moreover, we represent Europe.

“Maybe sometimes in Europe we have a different perception of what the tournament is – but the reality is that it’s very difficult to be here.

“We face champions from other continents.

Chelsea players get acquainted with the impressive Mohamed Bin Zayed Stadium

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Chelsea players get acquainted with the impressive Mohamed Bin Zayed StadiumCredit: Getty
Goalkeepers Kepa Arrizabalaga and Marcus Bettinelli hope Chelsea can juggle a busy domestic schedule with their Club World Cup campaign

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Goalkeepers Kepa Arrizabalaga and Marcus Bettinelli hope Chelsea can juggle a busy domestic schedule with their Club World Cup campaignCredit: Reuters

Chelsea arrived here in the early hours of Sunday morning without boss Thomas Tuchel, who tested positive for Covid – but the German could still be out for the final.

Tuchel’s number 2, Arno Michels, will be in charge tonight and will be assisted by Hungarian coach Zsolt Low.

Yet in training, it was Petr Cech, Chelsea’s technical and performance adviser, who addressed the players ahead of the session at the Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium.

Azpilicuta, 32, admitted he had taken some of Chelsea’s young players aside, to remind them that these kinds of opportunities don’t come around often.

He added: “When we are young we think we could have more opportunities.

“And over time you see how difficult it is not only to win trophies, but also to get to finals.

“Sometimes you can win or lose, but these type of tournaments are not the normal type of cups that you play every day.

Chelsea hope the massive architecture is a backdrop for an equally imposing achievement on the pitch

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Chelsea hope the massive architecture is a backdrop for an equally imposing achievement on the pitchCredit: Getty
N'Golo Kante is the middle man as the Blues warm up for the cup

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N’Golo Kante is the middle man as the Blues warm up for the cupCredit: AP

“Everyone knows how difficult it is – and that we can’t miss our chance.”

Tuchel, who also missed the 2-1 home win over Plymouth in the FA Cup fourth round, will address the squad via video link at the team hotel today.

During the match, he will be in constant dialogue with the technical staff on the bench.

Low said, “We had a lot of meetings using video.

“We change our ideas a lot of times during the day.

“And we know Al Hilal, we watched the game on Sunday with the technical staff.

“They have good quality up front and can score a lot. We expect a tough game.

After helping Senegal to their first Africa Cup of Nations win against Egypt, Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy was due to land in the United Arab Emirates last night, although Kepa Arrizabalaga is set to feature today .

CHELSEA (likely): Kepa, Azpilicueta, Silva, Rudiger, Alonso, Kovacic, Kante, Jorginho, Werner, Lukaku, Ziyech.

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