Cesar Azpilicueta urges Chelsea to finish 2017 on a high by defeating Stoke
Cesar Azpilicueta has urged Chelsea to finish 2017 on a triumphant note by toppling Stoke at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
The Blues are chasing a seventh successive Premier League victory on home soil and while Manchester City are runaway leaders, Azpilicueta insists his team must try to finish the season as high in the table as possible.
"What I see is that every game is a difficult game to win," he told Chelsea TV.
"Apart for Manchester City, every team is having problems. We need to fight and to keep pushing.
"We have another game against Stoke, our last game of the year, and it's important to keep winning and getting points. We must try to go as far as we can."
Azpilicueta played a key role in breaking the deadlock in the 2-0 win against Brighton on Boxing Day, combining with Spain team-mate Alvaro Morata for the opener scored only 40 seconds after half-time.
For the sixth time this season the full-back delivered a pinpoint cross for Morata to nod home and the Spanish theme continued when Marcos Alonso used his head to steer Cesc Fabregas' corner into the net.
"Well it's (the Azpilicueta and Morata partnership) working obviously!" Azpilicueta said.
"We knew the game was tight that we needed to find space in the right position and we also knew it was important to score in the first minute of the second half.
"Sometimes it was difficult to deliver the ball because the pressure was coming on us really quick. I needed an extra yard to put the ball in and it worked.
"The first half wasn't our best performance. We missed a few chances and allowed them to counter attack or to have possession.
"We knew that we had to push in the second half and our performance was better."
Brighton remain in a packed mid-table but are far from safe in their bid to avoid an immediate return to the Sky Bet Championship, and boss Chris Hughton is keen to strengthen in the transfer window.
"In January what you'd like to do and being able to do it are two different things," Hughton said.
"It's a very tough time to bring players in because clubs don't necessarily want to lose players and if they do then they know the demands are high at this time.
"If we are able to strengthen then certainly we will do that, but for a team that's just come up we're quite competitive and we haven't had too many injuries, which is good.
"Our players should be proud of where we are and what we've achieved so far, but they should also be frustrated because we could have done better.
"It's about trying to improve the team as much as possible and we would have taken this position at the start of the season, but we could have done better."