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Feb 5, 2013

Azpilicueta 'growing' at Chelsea

Chelsea right-back Cesar Azpilicueta believes he is improving as a regular member of the team under Rafael Benitez, and has praised John Terry for helping him to settle into English football.

Azpilicueta, 23, joined Chelsea from Marseille in the summer but struggled to get into the team under Roberto Di Matteo. But since Benitez has taken charge on an interim basis he has forced his way into the side.

"I am playing regularly, which is what every footballer wants, and I am growing as a player," Azpilicueta told El Pais. "At my club, an organised team is very important, and that I participate and support in attack. I am comfortable doing that. [Benitez and I] have a good relationship, he asks for different things than other coaches. Each one has their own system and way of playing."

The defender, whose progress in England is followed closely in Spain, also revealed that John Terry and David Luiz had been helping him settle in at Stamford Bridge, each in their own way.

"Terry is a bit scary at first," he said. "His temper on the field can be frightening, but he is a very good guy. He helps the new players a lot and on the field he gives me advice, corrects me. He is a leader. I respect him a lot. With David Luiz there are more jokes, he is more fun."

Azpilicueta said it took time to get used to the pace and physicality of the English game, but he is now enjoying it.

"[In the Premier League] they come at you from everywhere," he said. "The players are very strong, they go to war. But I like it. It is really intense. Very demanding, I like that."

While he is adapting well to life in England, the Chelsea dressing room had yet to come to terms with his surname, the full-back said.

"Nobody could say Azpilicueta, it is too difficult," he said. "They called me Dave as they say I look like someone from a TV series - I do not know which. And Dave has stuck."

The chance to play alongside Nacho Monreal for the senior Spain team seemed more than unlikely when both were starting out at Osasuna. Azpilicueta and Monreal were regulars on either side of the Osasuna defence for three seasons until the summer of 2010, when the former left the Pamplona club for Marseille. Monreal joined Malaga a year later, and moved on to Premier League side Arsenal for €10 million last week.

Speaking in Qatar ahead of Spain's friendly with Uruguay on Wednesday, the uncapped Azpilicueta said that recent developments were very welcome, but could not have been expected during their days at the Reyno de Navarra stadium.

"I am back with Monreal again," Azpilicueta said. "I spoke with him after his signing [for Arsenal] and now we both find ourselves here with the senior national team. It is a happy coincidence, for both of us. It would have been difficult to believe when we were both at Osasuna, that some day we would be together with the national squad."

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