Andreas Christensen has been challenged to learn a new role in order to break into Denmark’s starting line-up by his coach Age Hareides.
The 21-year-old, who returned to Chelsea in the summer following a two-year loan spell with Borussia Monchengladbach, is currently behind the more experienced pairing of Andreas Bjelland and Simon Kjær in the pecking order at centre-back for his country.
However, given his quality on the ball and positional sense, his national team’s manager sees other opportunities for the defender.
Speaking ahead of his side’s World Cup qualification play-off with the Republic of Ireland, Hareides told Danish outlet Ekstra Bladet: “Andreas Christensen has been doing great. There is no doubt about that.
“But no matter whether you play for Real Madrid, Barcelona or Chelsea, it is about what works best for the team and how you fit into it.”
Christensen has so far made 13 appearances in all competitions this season for the Blues and has been used as an alternative to David Luiz by Antonio Conte in the middle of his back three, something that Hareides has recognised.
“Andreas has been an interesting player to follow,” he said. “I think he is best in the back three that he plays for Chelsea.”
However, Denmark have tended to play with a back four with a pairing of two centre-backs.
“Bjellend and Kjær work well together,” observed the 64-year-old in his pre-match press confernece. “I feel that [Christensen] must fight to get into the national team in a different position in the future.
“I would like to see him play as a defensive midfielder, for instance.”
The Chelsea youngster backed his manager and said he would wait for his chance with Denmark rather than make demands in the dressing room. He praised Bjellend and Kjær ahead of the Ireland game and admitted that breaking up their understanding made little sense.
“There is absolutely no reason to change that,” he said. “I am young, patient and will be able to break into the team in the future. The only thing I wish for is World Cup qualification.”
“[Bjellend] has more experience than me but I have more pace in my legs,” added the Chelsea defender. “We’re both very calm with the ball and like to play it out from the back.”
Antonio Conte has used Luiz in a defensive midfield position this season when injuries have left the Blues short of specialists to play in the middle of the park and when asked about the prospect of trying that role for himself the Dane admitted he would relish the challenge.
“I see no problems in trying,” he said. “It’s been a while since I last played in that position so I would need time to get comfortable but I am ready for it.”
Denmark host Ireland in the first leg of their World Cup qualifier at Telia Parken in Copenhagen. It remains to be seen whether Christensen plays a part in the fixture.