Ben Chilwell believes he is now ready to play his role for Chelsea after regaining his fitness after a long spell with injury and is looking forward to his first experience of an ancient football rivalry in front of fans when we take on Leeds United in Premier League. League.
The wing-back was ruled out for much of last season after suffering a serious knee injury in our big Champions League win over Juventus, failing to return until coming off the bench late in the win over Watford the last day of our 2021/22 campaign.
While he admits it was frustrating to make his return to immediately put him back on hiatus until the start of the new season, Chilwell is happy his recovery has so far exceeded his expectations and feels the support he has. received from Chelsea supporters, both against the Hornets and throughout his time out, gave him the boost he needed.
“It was a bit bittersweet because I felt like I was back on the pitch, where I love to be, back at Stamford Bridge and the welcome I received coming back to the pitch , then the season ended.
“So I had to wait a few more months to get that feeling back, but it also gave me the motivation and the drive to make sure in the month that I had taken, to really push myself to make sure that I was in the best shape to come back in pre-season.
“Mentally it was probably a lot easier than I thought. Knock on wood, I didn’t have too many hurdles with the injury itself and the rehabilitation itself was in stages, so it happened pretty quickly and it wasn’t too difficult.
“Another thing that helped me a lot was the fans, who have been behind me all the way, from the day I got injured against Juventus until today. The fans have been with me all the way and they have also given me the confidence to come back quickly and play in front of them again.
After starting our 1-0 win at Everton on the opening day of this season, when Chilwell played just over an hour, the next step in his return to full fitness came earlier this week, when he played throughout a development team game against Fulham at Kingsmeadow.
“We lost the game, but personally it was good to have 90 minutes. It’s been several months since I played 90 minutes and the manager keeps telling me I need to get my fitness back , pick up speed.
“Training is one thing, that’s what every footballer knows. You can train as much as you want, but the match is completely different and you have to get match time to make sure you’re ready. J spoke to the manager and it was important for me to play this game on Monday, just to get the 90 minutes in my legs and give me that confidence going forward.
“For my fitness level, I played the 90 on Monday and felt really good. In terms of confidence, mentally, physically, I’m in a great frame of mind. I’m ready to help the team, I’ve let the manager know that I’m ready to help the team. I feel like I can do it now, but there are a lot of quality players in the team and we are all fighting for the same positions. All I can do is train hard and let the manager know I’m ready.
One of those quality players vying with Chilwell for a place in the starting XI is Marc Cucurella, who joined the Blues from Brighton shortly before the start of this season. However, the England international believes tough competition for places is to be expected at this level and is part of every professional footballer’s life, as well as a source of motivation to keep improving.
“Obviously it will be a battle between us, but it is a competitive battle in which we will both thrive and help the team.” It’s the same thing I’ve been through all my career, like anyone. I had it with Christian Fuchs at Leicester, I had it with Marcos for the past few years, so it’s nothing new.
‘It’s the same for everyone. You can ask anyone in this dressing room, everyone is fighting for positions with talented players. We are at Chelsea and it is one of the biggest clubs in the world, we will have very talented players in every position. Obviously that’s a positive for the club and for the group, because we push ourselves every day in training to make sure you get the start and that raises everyone’s level.
It remains to be seen whether Thomas Tuchel will give Chilwell the green light to feature in our next game at Leeds, which would be the winger’s first experience of playing in front of fans at Elland Road, with his only previous appearance there in a empty stadium during Covid restrictions, when he was part of the Chelsea side that drew 0-0 in March last year.
However, he feels that even then you could feel the rivalry between the two clubs, which dates back more than 50 years, to the epic ties of the late 60s and early 70s, including our final victory of the FA Cup in 1970, and there is no question of the intensity our opponents will bring to the pitch.
“Even without the fans, it was still a very tough game and you could tell there was a rivalry there.” Everyone knows what Leeds is. They run a lot, they’re very competitive, they’re very aggressive and they’re a very talented team.
“Leeds always support each other physically, that they can play a very open style of game because they are a very fit team and have been since coming to the Premier League. I think they are confident that they can potentially overtake the teams and maybe bully the teams on a physical level.
“I haven’t played at Elland Road with fans but I’ve heard it’s a very hostile environment, it’s a very good fan base who pushes their team a lot. Fans will only add to competitiveness and rivalry, so we’re all expecting a very tough game, a very physical game, and we just have to make sure we’re focused on our game plan.