BY PAUL LAGAN
Cesar Azpilicueta is disappointed the Blues did not kill off Brighton when they had the chance but still feels a top four finish in the Premier League is in their own hands.
The Spain defender scored Chelsea’s only goal in the 1-1 draw at the Amex Stadium – a result that keeps the SW6 side handily placed for Champions League qualification next season.
Azpilicueta said of the match: “Of course, we started very well. We controlled the game. We scored the first one and we could have killed the game in the first 45 minutes we were much better than them but we were not able to do it. Then, we lost a bit of control and Kepa made good saves to get at least a point from the game.”
The Blues face Nottingham Forest on Sunday in the FA Cup but will not blame tiredness of the hectic Christmas and New Year period as an excuse for a drop in performance levels.
He said: “This period is busy for everyone. They played a lot as well. Sometimes through games, you have better periods than in others so when you are on top of them you have to try to make the most of it and it is not the first time it happens that we are better than them and we don’t put the game to bed. At 1-0, you risk it. On Wednesday, we were punished in the second half.
“When you don’t win, it is always bad. At Chelsea, we fight every time to win the games.
“When we don’t win we are not happy and we came here to get back to back wins in the Premier League which we haven’t done in a while and we were not able to start the year in a good position.”
Azpilicueta is philosophical about the Blues’ season so far.
“Well, we have had ups and downs,” he admitted.
“It is true we have had an amazing run of games where we were winning. They were nice games and then in the last few games we haven’t found consistency and lost a lot of points, especially at home.
“That is something we are trying to improve on as quickly as possible because to be at the top, we need to find consistency at home.
“We need to be solid again and to recover our home form because we know every game is difficult but we know with our position that it is in our hands. We have it in our hands. We are in fourth position and if we do our job, then we will finish in the top four. It is up to us.
“We know that we have a lot of games. Now we have a few days before the FA Cup game then we have Burnley at home in the Premier League.
“We know that for the second part of the season we have the FA Cup and Champions League coming in. In February, we have to be ready and pick up as many points as possible.”
So just how is the side going to pick up those points?
He said: ”We need to recover everything because at times we were playing very well but not making the most of it.
“It is something that we have to improve because in games when you are on top, then you have to make the most of it. It is not the first time it has happened and after it is more difficult for us. Yesterday, we were punished and we lost two points.
“We are a team. When we were winning back to back, we were winning as a team. Now we don’t win; it is up to us. We work together to try to get it because we cannot forget that we have young players around.
!But we are Chelsea. Every time we go to the pitch, we go to win. In every game, we show that we want to win. It is true that sometimes we are not at our level but it is up to us to raise it to get to where we want to be.
Frank Lampard has introduced a host of young players who have made the huge leap into the Premier League – again the skipper is philosophical.
“We cannot forget where most of them were last season. They were playing in different environments and circumstances.
“It is their first year in the Premier League and they are doing amazingly well, it is part of the process and we need to keep it all together.
“We are very happy that after the hard work from the academy coaches and staff that these young lads are having their opportunities. Some are coming back from loans; some are from the academy and directly now with us. It is part of their progress and I am sure that they will keep us growing as a team.”