Azpilicueta to shore up title run

Congleton Guardian: Cesar Azpilicueta has been a key part of Chelsea's miserly defence this term Cesar Azpilicueta has been a key part of Chelsea's miserly defence this term

Cesar Azpilicueta knows Chelsea must continue to be defensively solid in the closing weeks of the season.

Azpilicueta, capped by Spain at right-back, has emerged as Jose Mourinho's first-choice left-back this term and is part of a settled rearguard alongside goalkeeper Petr Cech, right-back Branislav Ivanovic and central defenders John Terry and Gary Cahill.

Chelsea have kept eight clean-sheets in 11 Premier League matches in 2014, including in last Saturday's 6-0 defeat of Arsenal, and boast the most miserly defence in the top flight.

The Blues top the table and have seven matches to play.

Azpilicueta told Chelsea TV: "We are defending well because everyone is defending. We are not conceding goals because everyone is doing their jobs.

"We are keeping a lot of clean-sheets and we are doing well is because of the team.

"We have very good centre backs, quality players. John, Gary and David are very good centre-backs and the relationship between them is key for the team."

Eden Hazard has been praised this season, not just for tearing apart opposition defences, but also for tracking back for Chelsea.

Former Marseille full-back Azpilicueta said of the ex-Lille forward: "I played against him in France and when I came here we knew each other a little bit.

"The relationship is good because we're more or less the same age and we speak French.

"I know every time I give him he's going to do something different."

Hazard need look no further than his team-mate Frank Lampard as an example to follow to footballing greatness, according to Mourinho.

The Chelsea boss told Yahoo: "Eden has in Chelsea great examples to follow and doesn't need to look outside his club to find the best examples.

"We have Lampard at 35 years old, obviously in the last period of his career, that couldn't be a better example as a professional for Eden and all the other guys."

Samuel Eto'o (hamstring) and Ashley Cole (knee) are likely to miss Saturday's match at Crystal Palace, while Ramires serves the second game of his three-man suspension.

Willian is available after a one-match ban.

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