Chelsea keeper Petr Cech relishing Japan opportunity
The Blues arrived in Japan on Monday to prepare for their entry into the competition on Thursday, when they will take on Mexican side Monterrey in their semi-final in Yokohama. With two wins from their last two games Chelsea finally appear to be coming into form and the trip to Japan could be seen as coming at exactly the wrong time. Cech, though, sees it differently.
"I'm very happy to be here," the 31-year-old said on the club's website.
"It means a lot for any player if you can play in such a great tournament. You only get your invitation when you win the Champions League, which isn't easy. I had to wait eight years to get the entry with Chelsea, so I hope we will make the most of it.
"Our last two results were very good, so we will try to carry that momentum into this tournament and we hope it will take us through."
Along with Copa Libertadores winners Corinthians, Chelsea go straight into the tournament at the last-four stage, with the champions of Europe and South America always favourites to meet in the final. Cech, though, is taking nothing for granted against Monterrey, who beat Ulsan Hyundai 3-1 in their quarter-final.
"We have to take it step by step," said Cech. "Monterrey have a slight advantage as they have been here and are acclimatised, they had a very good game, and will now face us on Thursday. We need to get as fit as possible as fast as possible, acclimatise and get used to the change in hours. I hope it's going to work and we are looking forward to the game.
"We were already seeded to play in the semi-finals, ourselves and Corinthians are seen as the favourites, but we can live with that fact, I have no problem with it. We've come to do our best and win the competition, we can assume the position as favourites and we will try to do our best on the pitch."
Interim manager Rafael Benitez brushed off fears that failure in Japan could cost him his job after Chelsea also crashed out of the Champions League last week. The Spaniard, who had been powerless to prevent the Blues' elimination, told a press conference: "With the economic crisis around the world, everybody is under pressure.
"I don't have a problem with pressure. The future is the next game and the one after that."
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