Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta has staunchly defended homegrown pair Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount after criticism from Jose Mourinho in the wake of their 4-0 hammering at Manchester United.
Former Blues boss Mourinho, speaking in his role as a pundit for Sky Sports, questioned the wisdom of including Mount and Abraham in the starting XI as Frank Lampard’s tenure as Chelsea head coach began in ignominious fashion.
Mourinho’s reasoning centred on the duo’s lack of top-flight experience when the likes of N’Golo Kante, Olivier Giroud and Marcos Alonso were left on the bench on Sunday afternoon.
Azpilicueta said: “If they are here it is because they deserve to be. They are fighting in every training session. We trust in them.
“All the boys, they train to play for the Chelsea first team since they were young and now we have a massive opportunity to create a fantastic group, to learn from every game.
“Obviously everyone would like to start in a better way but we have to face the reality and become stronger from it.”
Abraham and Mount started brightly at Old Trafford, the former rattling the post, and Chelsea were perhaps unfortunate to be trailing at the break following Marcus Rashford’s penalty.
However, the visitors unravelled once Anthony Martial had doubled United’s advantage after the hour mark, with further strikes from Rashford and substitute Daniel James adding gloss to the scoreline.
Azpilicueta has called on Chelsea to quickly draw a line under what happened on the opening weekend of the Premier League season ahead of a trip to Istanbul to face domestic rivals Liverpool in Wednesday’s Super Cup final.
The Spanish defender added: “We know that Chelsea always fights for everything. When you don’t win, the questions around get more and more but we have to cope with it.
“We know that playing for Chelsea requires your best effort in every game so we have to learn from the game.
“We know that we can improve. We have to face it, take the responsibility and move forward. We have a trophy to fight for on Wednesday against a good team and we have to be ready for it.”
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Both City and the Reds posted statement victories in their opening games of the season as the champions hammered West Ham 5-0 and Liverpool romped past Norwich 4-1.
Spurs needed a late Kane brace to ensure they got off to a winning start, beating Aston Villa 3-1 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and the England captain says the two title favourites cannot be allowed to pull away.
There is an early chance for Mauricio Pochettino’s side to climb above City next week when the two meet in an early-season blockbuster.
“We kept up with them for a while last year but they blew ahead after January,” Kane said. “We have to make sure we get off to a good start.
“Liverpool set the standard on Friday night and City before us, so it’s important that we stay in touch as long as we can.
“We have full belief that we can go all the way but there’s a long road ahead and we’ve got to be fully focused.”
If Tottenham are going to challenge for the Premier League title then Kane’s goals are going to be very important.
Kane admits he enjoyed a summer of bliss, where he got married and was in the Bahamas for a month, thinking about scoring there, so was a relief to do it so soon this season.
“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while,” he said. “I missed a few games towards the back end of last year and had the summer to think about what that would be like, so it was nice to do it and help the team to get a victory.
“I had four weeks off, the most I’ve had off in a few years now. I’ve had a good pre-season, been here from the start, worked with the team and everyone’s feeling good.
“We’ve still got work to do, I’ve still got work to do in terms of fitness and things like that, but playing games will only help.
“I feel in a good place and hopefully I can continue doing what we’ve done.”
It was the introduction off the bench of Christian Eriksen that changed the game against Villa, who led through John McGinn’s goal before Tanguy Ndombele equalised for Spurs.
The Dane’s future is up in the air as he will not sign a new contract and could leave the club before the end of the European transfer window on September 2.
But Kane hopes he sticks around as long as possible.
“Obviously I’ve been playing with Chris now for five or six years and we all know the qualities he has: the assists, the passes, the goals,” he said.
“Whether he starts or is on the bench, the most important thing from all of our points of view is that he gives everything for the team.
“Obviously there’s been speculation about his future but as long as he’s training hard and playing as hard as he can when he’s here, that’s all we can ask for. What will be will be but we’re happy to have him.
“That’s out of my hands. From our point of view as players, we do it on the pitch. We commit to the club and do as much as we can and whatever happens outside of our control, happens.”
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The France midfielder was expected to leave Old Trafford for Real Madrid this summer, but the Spanish club do not appear to be prepared to accept United’s asking price, reported to be £180million.
Pogba, who set up Marcus Rashford for his second goal against Chelsea with a brilliant long-range pass, told French radio station RMC Sport afterwards that there were still doubts over whether he will stay at United.
“I always feel good when I play football. I do the things I like, plus it’s my job. I give my all every time I go out on the pitch,” he said.
“I’m aware that things have been said. Only time will tell. There’s always that question mark.
“I’m at Manchester. I have fun with my team-mates, I always want to win matches and I always give my best when I’m on the pitch.”
The Spanish transfer window does not shut until September 2, but Real look set to sign Ajax midfielder Donny Van de Beek, who has reportedly claimed the two clubs are in talks over a transfer.
United made a winning start to the new Premier League season, beating Chelsea 4-0 thanks to two goals from Rashford – his first from the penalty spot – Anthony Martial and debutant Daniel James.
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