Cesar Azpilicueta has backed Chelsea to wreck Liverpool’s Premier League title chances for the second time in five years this weekend.
The Blues’ 2-0 win at Anfield in April 2014 derailed Liverpool’s tilt at the title, paving the way for Manchester City to snatch the league crown.
Steven Gerrard’s slip gifted Willian the last-gasp second goal to end Liverpool’s 16-match unbeaten streak in a defeat that floored Brendan Rodgers’ side.
Liverpool are once more close to that elusive first title since 1990, but again City will push the Reds to the death – and Spain defender Azpilicueta believes the Blues can also dash Anfield’s hopes.
‘It was a few years ago, but we went there and they had the party ready because they were smashing every team at Anfield,’ said Azpilicueta.
‘We arrived with a very clear idea, and we produced the game we had to at that moment to beat the team that were getting very good results.
‘So to beat them 2-0 was very important, an important win for the club and the fans.
‘We enjoyed that day and hopefully we can replicate it on Sunday.
‘It’s not about frustrating Liverpool, it’s about playing our game.
‘We know they are fighting for the title, but for us every point is very important for the top four. It’s an important game.
‘We know we’re going to play a very strong side, but first of all we need to keep the solidity that we’ve shown in the last games, and defend very well as a team because they are a big threat.
‘And if we take our chances, I think we’ve proved ourselves already this season when we won [2-1] in the League Cup [in August]. I think it’s a big game and everyone’s looking forward to it.’
Chelsea scraped past Slavia Prague 1-0 in Thursday night’s Europa League quarter-final first leg at the Sinobo Stadium, with Marcos Alonso nodding home Willian’s cross in the closing stages.
Spain goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga pulled off a string of fine saves to deny the gutsy hosts, setting up Chelsea to complete the job at Stamford Bridge next week and reach the semi-finals.
Azpilicueta hailed Chelsea’s £71-million record signing for quickly shaking off the League Cup final storm for refusing to be substituted.
In that incident, Kepa defied manager Maurizio Sarri’s orders to stay on the field, only for Chelsea to lose the penalty shootout 4-3 to Manchester City.
The 24-year-old was eventually fined a week’s wages for that insubordination, raising fears for his Stamford Bridge future.
But after his commanding display in Prague, Azpilicueta believes Kepa has banished any lingering doubts about his Blues career.
Asked if Kepa’s showing on Thursday means all is forgiven, Azpilicueta said: ‘Yes, it’s really important for Kepa, it’s his first year in England, his first season here.
‘Sometimes it has been frustrating for him because he couldn’t do anything to avoid a goal.
‘He had one job to do and he did it very well.
‘That’s three clean sheets in a row and it’s very important for us to be solid. We know that when we are in the Europa League quarter-finals every game is going to be difficult.’
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