Azpilicueta motivated to complete Chelsea medal collection

Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta has won nearly every major title with the London club since arriving in 2012 with FIFA's Club World Cup the only missing medal in his trophy cabinet.

Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta and teammates during training.   -  Reuters

Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta has won nearly every major title with the London club since arriving in 2012 with FIFA's Club World Cup the only missing medal in his trophy cabinet.

Which is why the 32-year-old Spaniard is treating Wednesday's semifinal against Saudi Arabian side Al Hilal in Abu Dhabi with the utmost respect.

"I'm really motivated," Azpilicueta, part of the Chelsea team to lose to Corinthians in the 2012 final, told reporters on Tuesday. "In 2012 it hurt. To win it first time for the club is huge, we have to make it everything for us.

"Maybe with time you realise how difficult it is to get there. We saw how Corinthians prepared for the game. Sometimes small details make a difference and on that day we weren't at our best. It hurt a lot.

"We're representing Europe. We know it' going to be difficult. We have to make the most of this chance."

Chelsea have taken a full-strength squad for the tournament, although manager Thomas Tuchel is overseeing operations from afar having tested positive for COVID-19 and his assistant Zsolt Low will take charge of the team.

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"We're disappointed Thomas isn't here. We have to be ready for it. He'll be very important in pre-game and during it he'll have a direct connection with the staff," Azpilicueta said.

"We have to adapt. We have the technology to communicate. Hopefully we fill the gap, step up and do the best for him."

Chelsea will be overwhelming favourites to beat Al Hilal on Wednesday and reach the final, but Low is taking nothing for granted against a team managed by Leonardo Jardim.

"We have to take the role (of favourites) after winning the Champions League," Low told a news conference on Tuesday.

"We know we're a good team and play a good game but Al Hilal are very good, with an experienced coach from some big clubs. We take the role as favourite but for sure it can be a difficult game tomorrow."

Goalkeeper Edouard Mendy has joined up with the squad after winning the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal, although Low was guarded over whether he or Kepa Arrizabalaga will be in goal against Saudi Arabian side Al Hilal.

"We have two amazing goalkeepers. Mendy made a fantastic performance to win the Africa Cup and be best goalkeeper but Kepa does an amazing job with us here," Low said.

Low said Tuchel's input will be very important.

"If we need him at 6am, we need him at 6am and we are training in the afternoon so Thomas is already awake," Low said.

"We all the time have phone contact also during the game so he can analyse and try to translate to the team."

Al Hilal beat Al Jazira 6-1 to set up a meeting with Chelsea and boast familiar names in their squad including former Watford striker Odion Ighalo.

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