‘To play in the Champions League means the coach trusts you. My message tonight was this. I trust all my players, not only with words but with facts.’
So said Antonio Conte a week ago straight after the win over Qarabag having changed his team significantly from the Premier League victory in the preceding game. One of the players he was especially referring to was Andreas Christensen, who performed well in the 6-0 win, as he did in his previous start this season, at Wembley where Spurs were defeated. He was also introduced as a substitute in three other games.
‘It is nice to know that the manager trusts you and he says he trust everyone and it is a good thing,’ Christensen tells the official Chelsea website when asked about being fielded in big games.
‘Now everyone needs to just keep showing on the pitch what they can do.
‘The Tottenham game was very difficult and all Champions League games are big games so I have enjoyed the time I have had on the pitch, and I think so far I have shown good signs.’
It is almost three years since Christensen made his Chelsea debut in a League Cup game at Shrewsbury, playing the whole match and going on to appear in the FA Cup and the Premier League that season. He then went for two years of loan development at Borussia Monchengladbach where it went as well as could be hoped. The young Dane was quickly a regular in a side achieving highly in the German top-flight and playing big Champions League games. He was voted the supporters’ Player of the Year in his first season near the Rhine.
‘I played almost every game and in the Champions League we had difficult groups with Barcelona, Man City, Juventus, Celtic and Sevilla,’ he lists. ‘So there were some tough games and it was hard to get something out of them but we did what we could and I enjoyed that two-year loan spell.
‘The first season we finished fourth in the league. We started out losing the first five games and then we won 14 or 15 in a row and the first season was the perfect season for me and for the club.
‘The second season we finished top half but it was not where we wanted to be and we changed managers so it was more up and down, but I still got a lot out of it.’
So how is the 21-year-old different from the player who went to the Bundesliga two years ago?
‘It is a difficult question to answer but actually just a little bit of everything,’ he decides. ‘I got more game time so I have more confidence and I became more forward as a person. I am still the same person but more mature.’
Back at Chelsea, Conte has so far used Christensen as the central player in the back-three defence, his alternative to David Luiz, and it was noticeable during pre-season that the experienced Brazilian defender was passing on advice to the younger prospect.
‘David always does and he is a good person, he wants the best for everyone and for the team,’ says Christensen. ‘If he sees something, he will definitely say it, it does not matter who.
‘When I was younger, my teams always played four at the back and then in the first season in Gladbach, we changed from four to three and played that through almost the whole season. I was the middle player, so I know that position. It is a little bit different what different managers want from a player who plays there but in general it is the same position.’
It remains to be seen whether Christensen will now have a run of domestic games with David Luiz suspended for three matches, but it certainly seems likely he will start tonight against Nottingham Forest given Conte’s words in the build-up to this cup-tie, and that would be followed by Stoke away and a home game against Man City, a side he certainly knows well.
‘Even my first-ever game for the Chelsea first team was Man City away in America in a post-season tour, two games actually, and then in the Champions League two years running with Gladbach. I haven’t got the best results yet but hopefully that will come.’
There is plenty of football before we face City though, including tonight’s chance for our Danish Blue to make it three wins out of three from the games he has started since returning to London.