KEPA ARRIZABALAGA is confident he and Chelsea’s other Champions League rookies can flourish in the competition this season.
Kepa (pictured above), Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori are all set for their debuts among Europe’s elite when they face Valencia at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night.
It might be a step into the unknown for Chelsea’s young team but Kepa feels the ‘energy’ and ‘enthusiasm’ they demonstrated in winning 5-2 at Wolves on Saturday will serve them well.
The 24-year-old Spain goalkeeper said: ‘Regardless of the fact we’re a young team and it’s only September and there is a long way to go, we are going to play with energy and try and attack the opposition.
‘Many of the players in the team will be playing their first Champions League game but we’ve been waiting for this for a long time.
‘We spent the whole of last year trying to qualify for the Champions League so we feel very enthusiastic.
‘We can’t wait to see the atmosphere at the Bridge and play in front of our fans in the most important European club competition.’
Boss Frank Lampard, another debutant as a manager in Europe, feels his side have what it takes to get out of a tough group which also includes Ajax and Lille.
He said: ‘I’m confident — but very aware of the dangers.
‘Our target is to qualify from a tough group. It is different from the Premier League — the main thing is that the concentration levels throughout the game have to be spot on. The different level can surprise you.
‘I have belief in the players. I think we have talent that can blossom in the Champions League.’
Valencia are in a state of disarray with players up in arms about the sacking of their manager Marcelino last week.
The squad are refusing to speak to the media, and even though one player is required by UEFA to attend pre-Champions League press conferences, new boss Albert Celades cut a lonely figure as he spoke to reporters yesterday evening.
He said: ‘Obviously it’s not an ideal situation but it’s the players’ decision, really.
‘The spirit is very good. It’s the start of the best club competition in Europe and that is ample motivation for the players to give their best.
‘They want to play, taste the atmosphere. and be in the starting XI. No-one wants to miss out and that, for me, is the most important thing.’