Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta wants to start new Prem streak
LONDON -- Cesar Azpilicueta has pledged to try and beat his mark of starting 74 consecutive matches in the Premier League for Chelsea, though he accepted that Antonio Conte may choose to rest him again over a busy festive fixture schedule.
Conte dropped Azpilicueta to the substitutes' bench for Chelsea's 1-0 home win over Swansea City last week, marking the first time since December 2015 that he had failed to make the Blues' starting XI.
In that time, the 28-year-old has established himself as a fan favourite at Stamford Bridge, giving consistently solid displays at left-back and right-back before slotting seamlessly into a back three in Conte's defensive system.
Conte immediately restored Azpilicueta to his team for Saturday's win over Newcastle and the visit of Atletico Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday, and after the match the Spaniard revealed that he hopes to embark on an even longer streak.
"It was a nice run," he admitted. "I never thought about the amount of games I played in a row, 90 minutes, but I will try to beat that mark, and I'm pleased for the number of games because I know it's difficult."
Asked if watching the Swansea game from the sidelines had hurt him, Azpilicueta replied: "Of course! I want to play every game. But we are a team, the manager makes the best decisions for the team, and it was important we won."
Azpilicueta rarely exhibits signs of fatigue on the pitch, and he would not be drawn on whether he felt that he needed a rest.
"For that we have the manager, that sees the performance, the training," he added. "Sometimes he tries to make the best decision and from that all of us have to go in the same direction."
The presence of Azpilicueta could not prevent Chelsea from being held to a draw against Atletico that condemned them to runners-up spot in Group C, meaning they could face Barcelona, Besiktas or Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16 in February.
"After the performance [against Atletico], I think we deserved to win [the group], but we were not able to do it and now we have to be focused on the draw and who we play," he continued.
"If you see the teams that you could face even being first it's difficult, but it's true that being first you play the second leg at home. It's a bit of a difference but, honestly, when you go into the last 16 of the Champions League, you have to face big, big teams and we have to show our level.
"Now it's time to focus on the Premier League, on the Carabao Cup and FA Cup that we will start in January, and when the Champions League is back in February, we will see how we are."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.