Chelsea fans prefer to hail Dave, not Cesar
LONDON - Cesar Azpilicueta has taken time to settle in at Chelsea but the Spain defender affectionately known as 'Dave' by the fans is beginning to make a name for himself at Stamford Bridge.
Azpilicueta, who joined the club from Olympique Marseille for a fee of seven million pounds ($11.09 million) in August, produced his best display for the European champions as they brushed aside Wigan Athletic 4-1 in the Premier League on Saturday.
On a day of perfect symmetry in west London, the supporters welcomed back old favourite Frank Leboeuf when the former World Cup winner was paraded at halftime.
The Frenchman won a host of medals in his five years at Chelsea before leaving for Marseille in 2001 and was so popular with the fans that he had his own song, 'He's here, he's there, he's everywhere, Frank Le-boeuf, Frank Le-boeuf'.
Azpilicueta was similarly industrious against Wigan, popping up with last-ditch interventions in his own penalty box, launching attacks with his speed down the right and delivering inch-perfect crosses.
His name may be a bit of a tongue twister for the Chelsea supporters, hence the choice of nickname, but the 23-year-old is showing a growing authority in every game he plays at right back.
The fast-raiding Azpilicueta laid on two of the goals on Saturday, the second for Eden Hazard and the final one in stoppage time by Germany midfielder Marko Marin.
"It was the first time I was involved in so many goals and it was a very good week for me," the Spaniard told the club website (www.chelseafc.com) on Monday.
"The last few results have been disappointing so it was very good we won. Tottenham had won before our game and we wanted to keep our league position and we did," added Azpilicueta who made his Spain debut in last Wednesday's 3-1 friendly win over Uruguay in Qatar.
Tottenham, Chelsea's chief rivals for third spot, put the pressure on their fellow Londoners by defeating Newcastle United 2-1 in Saturday's early kickoff.
Rafa Benitez's team responded in style, though, moving back up to third with their first victory in five games in all competitions.
Chelsea's attention now turns to the Europa League last-32 first leg at Sparta Prague on Thursday.
"The Europa League is not the same as the Champions League because that is the top but the Europa League is... an important competition," said Azpilicueta whose nickname is an oblique reference to a character from the TV show 'Only Fools and Horses'.
"Never in the history of Chelsea have we won this cup and we are going to try to do it."
($1 = 0.6315 British pounds) (Editing by Alison Wildey)