Zouma still sees future at Chelsea after embracing Stoke pressure

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The France international believes he has benefited from a spell away from Stamford Bridge, but is still determined to make his mark in west London

Kurt Zouma sees his long-term future at Chelsea and believes working under pressure at relegation-threatened Stoke has better prepared him for challenges at Stamford Bridge.

The France international was among those freed by Antonio Conte to go in search of regular game time elsewhere last summer.

Stoke were prepared to offer the 23-year-old those opportunities on a Premier League stage and duly snapped him up on a season-long loan agreement.

Zouma has impressed during a difficult campaign for the Potters and believes he will return to west London an improved player and one ready to stake a claim for a starting berth with the Blues.

He told reporters on his plans: “People know that I’m here for one season and it doesn’t matter what is going to happen after, I hope Stoke are going to stay in the Premier League. My target is to go back to Chelsea, but first do it right here. I don’t want to go down.

“My target is to go back to Chelsea and play. They gave me a chance to go on loan and I spoke with the manager who agreed with that and they helped me a lot from my injury and to find a club where I can play all the time. Everyone knows I am here for one year and then I’ll go back.

“Like the other players, we all have to show the fans we want to stay up. There is no difference to me and the other players, we all have to fight to stay up. I don’t think about Chelsea, I just think about Stoke.”

Zouma’s efforts have not been enough to steer Stoke clear of trouble this season, with Paul Lambert’s side currently sat second-from-bottom in the Premier League table.

They are, however, only one point from safety with eight games still to play.

Battling the drop is a new experience for Zouma, but one that he has embraced and one that he believes has placed him under greater pressure than he has experienced elsewhere in his career.

He added: “It’s maybe harder because you don’t want to go in the Championship, so maybe it is a bit harder. But football is football, you have to win games.

Kurt Zouma

“The thing is we need to pick up points and we are under a little bit of stress but now everybody is calm, we know that with the quality we have that if we play well like we have been the last few weeks, then we are going to get some points and win games.

“It’s different for me. When I was at Chelsea, we were playing for the title, but, for my experience, it’s good. I’m still young and I’m still learning and to be in this position, I’ve learned a lot.

“You are a bit under pressure and you don’t want to lose games or make mistakes and you have to get points.

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“But I knew it was going to be like this. There is more defensive work I would say compared with Chelsea where you have the ball more, people are scared of you and you control the game.

“Stoke is a bit different, it’s a bit more defensive work, especially when we play the top teams like Chelsea, Man City, Man United and Liverpool. You defend more, but I knew that and that’s what I’m here for to work defensively to improve myself and get better.

“But it’s definitely improved me as a player and a person. I’ve been playing almost the whole season, so I’m very happy with that. For myself, I still have work to but I think I’m getting better and tactically maybe I’ve improved a bit. This year hasn’t finished yet so let’s see what is going to happen, but I feel better.”

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