Tiemoue Bakayoko says the team are still hopeful of qualifying for next season’s Champions League and that our sole focus is on beating Newcastle United today in our final Premier League game.
Having begun at Stamford Bridge, against Burnley, our league campaign comes to a conclusion in the North-East where we take on Rafael Benitez’s side, who we have already beaten twice this season.
For the Blues to finish in the top four, and secure Champions League football, a victory at St James’ Park is imperative, while we also require Brighton to win at Liverpool.
‘We really want to win to end the season well and we are very determined because we are still in with a chance of qualifying,’ said Bakayoko.
‘The whole team really want to have a stab at the Champions League, this is a big club and we’ve won it in the past. Therefore it’s a goal for the club to do that this season and it’s very dear to us to qualify this time.’
Next weekend, of course, Antonio Conte’s side will have an opportunity to bring the curtain down on the campaign by winning a trophy when we play Manchester United in the FA Cup final, but Bakayoko insists all thoughts of the Wembley showpiece need to be put on hold until after today’s fixture.
‘There’s really nothing better for any player than to get into a final, so it’s always great when you can qualify for that,’ he said.
‘We have a lot of work to do but it’s what any player would hope for. What’s important now, though, is to focus on the game against Newcastle and hope there’s a good result for us in the game between Liverpool and Brighton. After that we can focus on the FA Cup final.’
It was at Wembley that Bakayoko made his Chelsea debut, in our 2-1 Premier League win over Tottenham last August.
Since that day, he has gone on to feature frequently for the Blues throughout the campaign, most recently producing a good performance as part of a three-man midfield in last week’s 1-0 win over Liverpool, and as he comes towards the end of his first season at the club, Bakayoko discusses the differences between the Premier League and its French equivalent.
‘I think it’s clearly superior in England,’ he stated. ‘It’s more intense, the difficulty level is higher, there is no time to rest or drop the ball for one game, that’s clear and it becomes clearer with every game I play for Chelsea. It’s also really exciting and there is really no comparison.
‘Here I’d say it’s the intensity, when you get the ball the time between defence and attack is so fast, the ball just flies backwards and forwards, and that’s something unique to here whereas in France you have more time to build up your attacks, something you don’t have here.’
Conte has shown his faith in the 23-year-old by starting him in some of our biggest games, including the wins over Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham and Atletico Madrid, and Bakayoko explained how working under the Italian has helped him develop his all-round game.
‘It’s really good but really hard,’ said Bakayoko. ‘There is work to do every day. You have to work on being alert and focused but he’s a really great coach and throughout the season, from a personal point of view, he’s really helped me to progress.
‘I’ve worked on my focus, I’ve become more rigorous, because that was something I struggled with at my previous club and I hope to continue to make progress with him.’