Cesar Azpilicueta says the team will be making ‘no excuses’ when we travel to Moscow for our Europa League quarter-final second leg against Rubin Kazan.
The defender figured in last week’s 3-1 win against the Russians, which sets us up well to take our place in the last four of the competition, but he expects a more difficult clash at the Luzhniki Stadium, with a four-hour flight and a synthetic playing surface thrown into the mix.
‘We got a good result at Stamford Bridge, but we have only played 50 per cent of the tie, so we need to go there without thinking of the first score, and probably try to win the game,’ said the Spain international.
‘It’s a long trip to Moscow but we can’t find any excuses. We need to play our best game. Every three days now we play a final so we have to keep our focus when we go there and we want to be in the semi-final, so we need to play a good game.
‘I’ve played on this pitch against Spartak Moscow before, and in France with Marseille I played two or three games at Le Havre who had a synthetic pitch.
‘It is of course different, and makes the bounce of the ball different. But sometimes even with grass, pitches are different, and you just need to adapt as quickly as possible to each one. It’s not what we are used to but we won’t make any excuses about the pitch.’
Looking to reverse our advantage will be Pablo Orbaiz, the experienced midfielder with whom Azpilicueta shares a birthplace – Pamplona. Although a decade younger than the Rubin player, Azpilicueta knows his local influence well.
‘When I was young I knew him, he was playing for Osasuna, and he scored some important goals, he helped to bring the team into the first division,’ the full-back explained.
‘One of the training pitches is now named after him there, he was an important person. We spoke a little bit last week, but because he is older than me we don’t know each other personally, but I played against him when he was with Athletic Bilbao, and he was at Olympiakos when we played them in the Champions League last year.’
This time the pair will cross paths in the Europa League, and Azpilicueta will be determined it is he who is closely monitoring Friday’s semi-final draw.