Andreas Christensen knows he might be asked to mark the likes of Harry Kane for Chelsea this season, but the young defender is not worried one bit.
That is not to suggest the 21-year-old lacks respect or has an ego problem. He simply has more experience of facing world-class strikers on a regular basis than most players his age.
Christensen has just returned to Stamford Bridge from a two-year loan at Borussia Monchengladbach where, among others, he got to line up against Bayern Munich duo Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller.
He has had a couple of seasons in the Champions League too, where trips to Manchester City and Sergio Aguero lay in store. It means now that Chelsea want him as part of the squad, he feels more ready to take on the challenge.
He told Standard Sport: “I have come back to Chelsea a better player than the one that left two years ago. I played about 80 games in two seasons and I have a lot more experience. I have a bit more toughness, more mental than physical.
“The physical side of things is something I still have to build on, but mentally it has given me a lot. I’m more confident, I feel ready for bigger things. I was up against a lot of top strikers, big teams. I remember when I played against Bayern for the first time, I was nervous beforehand because it is easy to look like a clown playing against these guys.
“Borussia played one against one at the back and I was directly up against Lewandowski first and then Muller later on, but we won the game 3-1. Everything went well and this is the kind of thing that gives me more self-belief at the top level.”
There have been accomplished displays in Europe too, including keeping new Chelsea team-mate Alvaro Morata goalless on a trip to Juventus in 2015.
“Borussia were in the Champions League as well so I got to have a bit of a taste of everything,” he added. “I was up against Alvaro for one game and know what it’s like to play at Manchester City too. So I have had a bit of a taste of these big things and I want more of it in the future.”
Christensen moved to Chelsea’s academy at the age of 16 and much has been expected of him ever since. Like with any young prospect at Chelsea though, the difficulty can be turning hype into substance, namely a place in the first team.
Chelsea’s use of the loan system has been criticised in many quarters, particularly as many of those sent away to develop have eventually been sold.
Christensen looks to be the exception to the rule though and feels Chelsea’s treatment of their junior talent should be seen in a more positive light. When asked if he felt the loan system helps Chelsea’s youngsters, he explained:
“I’d like to think so. Some people say that they just abandon you, that they don’t keep an eye on you, but that is definitely not true.
“There is (loan technical coach) Eddie Newton and (assistant) Paulo Ferreira doing a great job and they visited me quite a few times.
“They would also send me videos of my games, telling me where to improve. I always watched those videos, would take the advice on board and take it into the next game, even though sometimes I’d forget another thing! I got all the help I needed.”
It is a measure of Christensen’s progress – he also has 11 caps for Denmark – that the club’s manager Antonio Conte doesn’t feel the need to buy another centre-back this summer following his return and Antonio Rudiger’s arrival.
He started the 3-2 defeat against Bayern Munich yesterday in Singapore in place of David Luiz (left) and it appears that providing back-up for the Brazilian is his task for now. “Luiz loves to play football and so do I,” he said.
“Even in the first drinks break against Bayern last night, he came over and told me a few things. He’s a great guy to learn from. He’s a good guy and wants the best for me as well.
“I haven’t spoken too much (with Conte) about it (his role), it’s just about getting all the tactical work in.
“Right now I’m concentrating on just trying to learn what he wants from me in the position. It’s just great to be back.
“Some things have changed but most of the people are the same. It feels familiar and when I walked back into Cobham I felt at home straight away.”