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Azpilicueta backs 'very important' Jorginho amid Chelsea struggles

14:15 GMT+3 03/05/2019
The Blues vice-captain has defended the midfielder who has often been the target of supporter unrest in his first season in England

Cesar Azpilicueta has offered his backing to Chelsea team-mate Jorginho and insists that mistakes are to be expected in what is his first season in English football.

The Blues earned a 1-1 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League semi-final first leg on Thursday, with Pedro's strike levelling up the tie after an early Luka Jovic goal.

Maurizio Sarri's side controlled the midfield areas in the second half, with Jorginho dominating in possession and winning more duels than N'Golo Kante.

In what has been a difficult first season in England, the summer signing from Napoli has been booed by his own fans but Azpilicueta believes the Blues need to collectively take the blame when things aren't going well.

"Jorginho is a very important player for us," the Spaniard said. "Sometimes all of us have struggled because when the results are not there, it means we are not doing the perfect job. But this is his first season in England, first time at a new club.

"This was an important game [for him]. He grew into the game by getting more control, creating more space for the two attacking midfielders where he could find them in very dangerous positions.

"We can see that every time we find him and give him more space, he can create that pass and move forward. It also meant we [the defenders] could enjoy more space in front of us."

Ruben Loftus-Cheek has been given more regular first-team football by Sarri in recent weeks and it was his assist for Pedro that led to the Blues scoring an away goal in the semi-final draw with Frankfurt.

Azpilicueta isn't surprised that his side turned to the England international in the absence of Eden Hazard, who was rested, and he believes he is capable of becoming a top player for the club.

"I have told him a lot of times that he needed to be fit," Azpilicueta added. "For a long time with Chelsea, he wasn’t able to play and to train for a few weeks in a row. It is very important when you’re a young player. He’s come from Crystal Palace after having a good loan there.

"He came to Chelsea after the World Cup and the manager trusted him, but due to a few back problems, he couldn’t get the rhythm of being involved in the team every week. But since he has been doing this, we have seen an improvement, his confidence in space is very good.

"He is very strong. He is a good attacking midfielder that can attack the box and score goals. I’m sure the only way he can go is up."

Chelsea return to Premier League action on Sunday as they battle Watford at Stamford Bridge, with the pressure on as they aim to finish in the top four and secure a Champions League place.

The Europa League offers an alternative route into Europe's premier club competition, as well as the chance of lifting a trophy, and Azpilicueta is a little disappointed that his side didn't kill the tie in the first leg of the semi-final against Frankfurt.

"The atmosphere was amazing," Azpilicueta said. "We knew that they were trying to make history and we had to match this intensity, but we have experience in those kinds of games and we had to use it in the right way.

"We didn’t start very well, they scored a goal, but after this, we controlled the game. They didn’t create any chances apart from the header in the second half from a corner. Overall I think we could be more effective in the final third.

"It could be better, could be worse. We scored an away goal and in the second half we dominated and had that feeling we could get a better result, but it’s half-time in the tie and we have a decisive game on Thursday at Stamford Bridge."