Chelsea remains in the mix for a double this season in England, with the UEFA Champions League and FA Cup still to play for, and Christian Pulisic is gearing up for the biggest showdown of his European career to date.
Pulisic and the rest of his Chelsea teammates head to Real Madrid on Tuesday for a semifinal first leg clash at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefan, looking to deliver a strong performance in Spain. After coming back from international duty in early April, the 22-year-old Pulisic is in fine form for Chelsea, helping them fight for a top four place in the Premier League and also remain in two competitions.
With three goals under his belt since returning from U.S. Men’s National Team duty, Pulisic is ready to help Chelsea move one step towards a first UCL Finals appearance since 2012.
“It’s key to really try to enjoy the moment,” said Pulisic in a conference call Monday with reporters. “Champions League semi-finals don’t come around every day. It’s an amazing time for us. Personally I’ve been looking forward to this game for weeks. It’s a big moment, there are nerves and a lot of preparation involved.”
“The key is going to be having a really good start to the match, showing our energy and showing we’re ready for this competition. They are going to be calm and experienced, and we have to be in that same way. We are going to need to go out and have a lot of confidence. We belong here. We have really accomplished a lot to get to this point, and we need to believe in our ability.”
Pulisic struggled for playing time in Frank Lampard’s final days at Stamford Bridge, which also carried over into the early days of Thomas Tuchel’s reign as manager. Nagging injuries paired with a lack of confidence didn’t help Pulisic, who was on the outside looking in as Chelsea tried to be more consistent in all competitions.
Since then, Pulisic has remained healthy and delivered some impressive outings for the Blues, helping them reach May’s FA Cup Final and also advance in Europe past Atletico Madrid and FC Porto. The USMNT star remains one of Chelsea’s lengthy list of offensive weapons going forward and credited his fitness for getting him back into the mix for minutes.
“I feel very confident in my body and my fitness level at the moment,” said Pulisic.”I have played a string of games. I never thought as myself as a player who was injury prone or anything. I have had some tough times in the past year and a bit, but it’s about taking care of my body and putting myself in the best position to be available for every game. I feel good about that now.”
“Consistency is everything. That’s where I want to be. It did help getting away with the national team and getting some games. Coming back, I felt very confident and I still feel that way. Right now, it’s about keeping up that form and trying to help my team to win these big games coming up.”
Chelsea faces off with a Real Madrid side, who is also in the mix for domestic silverware (La Liga title). The Blues haven’t lost to Real Madrid in three previous European meetings and will look to Pulisic to play a key role beginning on Tuesday.