Chelsea’s charismatic skipper John Terry says his team have enjoyed their Europa League run and will be aiming to win the final on May 15 but the club have already turned their attention to tomorrow’s clash with newly crowned English Premier League champions Manchester United at Old Trafford, as they look to take a step closer to Champions League qualification. Excerpts:
Q) John, Chelsea are through to the Europa League Final after beating Basel this week but is there time to celebrate with such an important game at Manchester United now in the Premier League?
A) "No. We have to refocus our attention on the league campaign. We've got two massive games; Manchester United first on Sunday and then Tottenham at home next Wednesday. It's a tough schedule but we are building momentum going into the final weeks of the season now and that's important. We have to make sure of a place in the top four at the very least."
Q) How important is it for Chelsea to be in the Champions League next season?
A) "It's vital. As I’ve said before, it’s a must for the football club, for the supporters, for the club moving forward and maybe for signings in the summer.
"We've enjoyed the Europa League this year and we want to win it - it's vital for this club to win trophies every season. But realistically we want to be playing Champions League football. That’s where it is for this football club and the players who have come here in the last couple of years, that’s what they want as well."
Q) Going to Old Trafford as they celebrate winning the title isn't going to be easy though?
A) "Of course not, but we've been there in the FA Cup already this season and we came back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2. In the end there wasn't much between the sides - they were better in the first half but we were definitely the better side in the second. There's not a lot between us when we play. It's just that we let them get too many points ahead of us this year - next year we have to get that right."
Q) Chelsea also have Tottenham and Everton to play in the final weeks, so it all adds up to a very difficult finish to the season, doesn't it?
A) "It's a tough run-in and a busy schedule, four games in eight or nine days I think which is ludicrous. But we have the squad to do it and the manager is rotating, everyone is playing a part."
Q) At this time last season your league form started to suffer because you were doing so well in the Champions League – do you feel fresher or more tired than last year?
A) "For us as a group of players, when the games are coming thick and fast we’re at our best. People say it’s a lot of games and I think we will feel the effects of it in the summer. Hopefully we will get a rest after that.
"There will be a lot of games but at the same time, when you’re playing, you don’t get a chance to think about anything else. You don’t really train too much, so you lose that side of it which you can then put into the games. It definitely has a balance.
"From my point of view, I prefer to play two-three games a week, otherwise you get long drawn out weeks and you end up doing a couple of days running and feel just as tired. I’d rather be playing games than running."
Q) A lot has been said about whether you personally can play two or three games a week? Has the rotation system been frustrating for you?
A) "Listen, I accept the rotation system completely. I can definitely play twice a week, three games a week if need be. I don’t know where that arose from. I’m fit, I’m training every day and have been for the last three months, so I just want to set the record straight. I’m available, but at the same time, if the manager chooses not to pick me and decides to go with the others, there is not a problem because I’m Chelsea through and through and I want nothing more than to get Champions League football.
"If that means me playing then great, if not I will be the biggest supporter in the dressing room."
Q) Perhaps the biggest positive of the season has been the form of Juan Mata and Eden Hazard, do you agree?
A) "They've been fantastic. They were named in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year and they deserve it. They have been brilliant for us this season and the fact they were shortlisted for the Player of the Year as well shows how respected and feared they are by their fellow professionals. It also shows the quality we have in our squad. And we want to show that at Old Trafford too."
Q) David Luiz has also done well - people are talking about him as a future Chelsea captain when you finally retire. Would you support that?
A) "I would. Naturally big Petr Cech will get the armband when I don't play at the moment - and hopefully I have a few years left too!
"But you look at David and he has done incredibly well this year, both in midfield and defence which isn't easy.
"He is still learning, still very young but he will be a very, very good player. He's got personality too - he pushes the lads. He is like that in training, demanding a lot from himself and the other players around him. It’s good for the squad. When they see myself, Frank and Petr Cech on a daily basis and players over the years like Didier Drogba training like that, they can only learn and repeat what we’ve done. And that's another reason why we need to be in the Champions League next year. These last few games are crucial. We want to finish as high as we can."
Professional Management Group