17 December 2019 23:09
Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta insists they cannot afford to pin their Champions League qualification hopes on winning the Europa League despite falling off the pace in the race for the top four domestically. A fourth away defeat in five matches in Sunday's 2-0 loss at Everton leaves Maurizio Sarri's side three points adrift of fourth-placed Arsenal in the Premier League. Having got the easier side of the draw in Europe, facing Sparta Prague in the quarter-finals with the winners of Benfica and Entracht Frankfurt awaiting in the semis, it would seem that competition represents the Blues' best chance of gaining entry to the Champions League. Player ratings: Everton vs Chelsea Show all 23 left Created with Sketch. "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," he said.
"There is still a lot of games to play and we are going to fight because we cannot miss Champions League qualification. "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. "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. Of greater concern for Sarri and Chelsea is the way the side capitulated under the first spell of pressure at Goodison Park after dominating the first half without scoring.
A transfer ban, the contract situation of the frizzy-haired one, and the stupendously successful loan spell of an academy graduate have the makings of the prefect storm for Chelsea this summer. The Blues could finally have a capable backup for Azpilicueta at right-back, or they could carry on letting Zappacosta fly into buildings and crash on the sidewalk the few times he is allowed to wear the cape. When his loan ends, the club must find a place for Reece James in their first team. And that place is right next to Cesar Azpilicueta, as his understudy. In Reece James, Chelsea has a ready-made replacement and a capable deputy for the right-back position.
City start the game as favourites to lift the first trophy of the season against a Chelsea side who have already lost three times at Wembley this season - the Community Shield against Manchester City and in the Premier League and Carabao Cup semi-final against Tottenham. However, Azpilicueta believes Sunday is the perfect opportunity to right the wrongs of the past and turn Chelsea's season around. "I don't know if it suits us not to be favourites," Azpilicueta said. "After the last game (between the two sides) everybody expects different to what they're used to when Chelsea are in a final. "But we are Chelsea, it is a final, two teams with one cup in the middle. "To win a trophy in February is the best way to approach the last two or three months, where we still have a lot to play for. "We know the feeling of winning at Wembley and to win against Man City after the result in the Premier League is something we are all looking for. Azpilicueta was also quick to leap to the defence of manager Sarri, the Italian has come under increasing pressure for recent performances and results. "It is true we have changed a lot, changed the system, the way of playing, we have been working really hard in the way the manager wants us to play," added Azpilicueta. "At the beginning the results were good, and maybe we were not playing the way that we were supposed to play but we still won the game. CHELSEA fans have called for Cesar Azpilicueta to be stripped of the club captaincy after he failed to step in during the Kepa Arrizabalaga substitution row. Arrizabalaga, 24, refused to come off yesterday and left Maurizio Sarri fuming - but fans have turned on their skipper instead. Getty 3 Azpilicueta has inspired Chelsea fans' rage after failing to defuse Kepa situation Blues supporters have been left crying out for someone like John Terry and Didier Drogba after Azpilicueta refused to drag Kepa off the pitch. Instead, Azpi, 29, did nothing as the £71.6million No1 remained on the pitch - half-injured - and failed to stop a tame Sergio Aguero spot-kick before Chelsea lost the Carabao Cup final on penalties. After the game, one user tweeted: "Cesar Azpilicueta showed zero leadership. Another said: "Criticise Sarri all you like for recent results but I personally think what Arrizabalaga did is disgraceful. EPA 3 Kepa refused to be subbed during the Carabao Cup final defeat PA:Empics Sport 3 Maurizio Sarri was fuming with Kepa Arrizabalaga after being disobeyed "You don't publicly and angrily go against your managers instructions, also why didn't Azpilicueta as captain intervene on behalf of Sarri? Maurizio Sarri has meltdown on touchline as Chelsea keeper Kepa REFUSES to be substituted and then winks at TV camera Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa angrily refuses to being called off the pitch during the Carabao Cup Final Here's how Twitter reacted to Azpilicueta's reaction - or lack thereof - to Kepa's insubordination... Cesar Azpilicueta showed zero leadership. It was Azpilicueta's job to make sure Kepa left the pitch since that was what the coach wanted. Don't get me wrong, I think Azpilicueta is a good player but I have not seen such a useless captain since Joey Barton at QPR. Kepa not leaving the pitch against City is a disgraceful thing, but let's not forget Azpilicueta was so useless as a captain he didn't even go up and talk to him. Dunno what is more embarrassing, Kepa refusing to come off or the so called captain Azpilicueta not dragging him off. This is another thing Azpilicueta is the captain he should have told him to go off and he said at the end of the match its not my problem there's a lot of issues at Chelsea on and off the pitch by the looks of things a lot of egos about. Kept should be club banned for 1 match for the way he handled the situation not necessarily his actions. Azpilicueta should be stripped of the captaincy, an incident like that requires a captain and he was no where to be seen. The Kepa incident but more specifically that surely Caballero was better suited for pens against his old club? Also why was Azpilicueta, the captain, not taking control of the situation? We were coming to a tough place, Fulham are fighting relegation, and in the first half we were much better, we controlled the game and we created a lot of chances to be more comfortable in the game. Sometimes in football you have to dig in and I am pleased with his because a few weeks ago we were not able to do this if things were not going our way, we were quite weak, so I am pleased because during the season you have to work and to suffer and on this day we went away with the three points.'