Gary Cahill says there is a confidence in the camp ahead of Thursday night’s Europa League second leg with Sparta Prague at Stamford Bridge.
We take a one-goal advantage, and an away goal, into tomorrow night’s game against the Czech side, and will be strong favourites to progress into the last 16, but Cahill is taking nothing for granted against a side that caused us a few problems last week.
‘You’ve got to take teams seriously, they’re a quality outfit and made it tough for us away from home,’ Cahill said. ‘We’re playing at Stamford Bridge and are always confident but we won’t take it lightly, they made it difficult for long periods of that game. In Europe, our home form, we’re unbeaten in quite a few games and hopefully it can continue.
‘When we play at Stamford Bridge we should always be confident, it’s not a place many teams want to come and play.’
The game comes just three days before we visit champions Manchester City in the Barclays Premier League, and the defender is hopeful that a positive result will see us take momentum to the north-west at the weekend.
‘We’ve got a huge game tomorrow night and then a massive game on Sunday,’ he said. ‘A positive result on Sunday opens that back up, but one game at a time. That will be a tough game away from home but a positive result puts second place in touching distance.
‘We know our targets for what we have to do to be in the [Champions League] next year. Now we’re out it’s important we are in it next year, that’s the main aim for us in the league this season.’
The 27-year-old also rejected suggestions that playing on Thursday in the Europa League will be more testing than a Tuesday or Wednesday in the Champions League.
‘The fixtures have been that crazy for us this year that we just get on with it,’ he said. ‘I’ve never been involved with so many fixtures. There’s nothing you can do about it, so you play Thursday and try and rest for Sunday. There is more rest time than time you can work on things on the training ground. It’s difficult but as players we just get on with it.’
John Terry’s return at the weekend has added to the competition for places among the defenders. Cahill welcomes the friendly rivalry.
‘Different partnerships can work well depending on different games. The lads have all played at the top level, all internationals, so it’s good for the squad that we have faces back,’ he reasoned. ‘We’ve had 20-odd consecutive midweek games, so that depth is important with David Luiz and JT back for selection.
‘There will always be competition in a big club, with people fighting for spots and a massive number of games to play. I needed to fight when I first came and that will continue now. You can never take anything for granted. The main thing is that it’s positive for the squad that people are back fit now.
‘John is a massive leader for us. He’s been struggling with his injury but come back again. I’m repeating myself but it’s great that everybody’s back fit. It’s a healthy situation.’
One team-mate who has been seen a lot of action recently is Frank Lampard, who is hunting his 200th Chelsea goal amid speculation over his contract. Cahill insists the attention is not affecting the midfielder, who needs four goals to overtake Bobby Tambling’s longstanding club record. He will not get the chance to add to it against Sparta, with Rafael Benitez opting to rest him and Branislav Ivanovic, but Cahill believes it will not be long before it happens.
‘Everyone is aware of it and willing him on, hoping he can do it. The form he is in at the minute you wouldn’t bet against him,’ the former Bolton man said.
‘Frank is a player I’ve been involved with for Chelsea and England, he’s phenomenal, works hard at his game and it’s no shock he scores consistently. He’s in great form at the minute and banging goals in for club and country. I hope that continues this season.
‘He just works hard at his game. He’s been on top of his game for so many years for the work he puts in. it hasn’t affected him. We’ve got this season to concentrate on and he’s playing some terrific football at the minute.’