Willian: Important to be clinical

As the Blues prepare for a big night in the Champions League, with a place in the quarter-finals at stake, Willian says he is confident we can achieve something special when we take on Barcelona at Camp Nou.

The last-16 tie is delicately poised following a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge three weeks ago, a game in which Willian, who was outstanding, opened the scoring as well as being denied twice by the woodwork (animated video below).

The Brazilian was on target once again, his fifth goal in as many games, as we secured an important 2-1 win over Crystal Palace at the weekend, and he believes an impressive display against the Eagles ensures we go into tonight’s game feeling positive.

‘Firstly it was good to get back to winning ways and it gives us confidence for the game against Barcelona,’ Willian tells the official Chelsea website.

‘In football, when you win you always get confidence for the next game. Now we have confidence to go there and do a job.

‘Playing against Barcelona is never easy. The pitch there is big and we expect a difficult game but I think if we play the same way as we did in the game at Stamford Bridge we can go through.’

Our record at Camp Nou, and against Barcelona in general, suggests those Chelsea fans making the trip – close to 5,000 in total – have every reason to be feeling optimistic ahead of the game.

We are unbeaten against the Spanish league leaders since a first-leg defeat at this stage of the competition in 2005/06, and our last four trips to Barcelona’s home have ended in draws.

What, we ask Willian, will be the key to securing the result which sends us through to the last eight this time around?

‘We have to stay compact and fight together without the ball because Barcelona, in every game, have a lot of possession,’ he says.

‘In this game, when we have the ball we have to be more clinical. We can’t afford to make any mistakes with our final pass and we have to be decisive in front of goal by shooting or doing what we want to do. If we go into the game with this mentality I think we can do something special.’

The combination of Willian’s pace and technical ability is likely to be hugely important tonight, and the 29-year-old goes into the game in top form. Saturday’s goal against Crystal Palace was his 13th of the campaign, his best return for the Blues since joining the club.

After the game at the weekend, Antonio Conte praised Willian for his quality on the ball and, in particular, his work for the team when the opposition are in possession.

‘Everyone knows my best qualities are with the ball, not without it,’ he says. ‘But I try to help the team and work hard. I’m not a specialist in that area but I try.

‘When I go on the pitch I always try to do my best and in some games I have the opportunity to shoot more, in others not so much, but in the last few games I’ve created a lot of chances and I think my performances have been good.

‘I want to play better and better, to help my team-mates and help the club. I want to win titles. I think we can do something special between now and the end of the season.

‘We have the Champions League and FA Cup, and we can reach the top four in the Premier League. We have some targets to reach so that’s why I want to always do my best.

‘I’ve had a lot of good moments in my career and this one, right now, is a special one. I’m very happy with my form.’

Willian is no stranger to Camp Nou having played at the famous stadium twice during his time with Shakhtar Donetsk, winning once and losing once.

The Brazilian was watching from afar the last time we played there, a memorable 2-2 draw which secured our place in the 2012 Champions League final, and his standout memory from the game was a piece of sublime samba skill from his friend and compatriot Ramires.

‘Yes, I remember it, I was watching that game and it was a good night for Chelsea,’ he recalls. ‘They suffered a lot in the game because they were 2-0 down, with a player less, but then Ramires scored a beautiful goal and the game changed.

‘Tonight it’s important we are able to keep 11 players on the pitch because otherwise we will be in trouble.

‘It will be amazing, incredible,’ he adds, when asked what a victory would do for the belief within the squad for the rest of the season. ‘To go there and go through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League means the confidence will be high. We can do it. It will be difficult but we can do something special.’


A Touch of Class 12/03/2018