Soccer

Christian Pulisic is ready for Chelsea’s Champions League final: ‘I definitely love the big games’

Christian Pulisic believes he has “come very far” in his second season at Chelsea despite injuries limiting his opportunities on the pitch for Thomas Tuchel’s side.

Pulisic ended the 2019-20 season as one of the Premier League’s outstanding performers, scoring five and assisting four for the Blues in the summer months. However an injury early in the second half of the FA Cup Final was to set the stage for another challenging campaign on the fitness front with the 22-year-old battling muscular issues in late 2020 and early 2021.

Once more though Pulisic appears to be rounding into form for the finishing straight and was crucial in Chelsea’s Champions League semi-final win over Real Madrid, scoring in the first leg draw and assisting Mason Mount for the decisive second goal in a victory at Stamford Bridge. The US international will be hoping that those performances earn him a place in Thomas Tuchel’s side for the final on Saturday against Manchester City.

“I’ve learned a lot, I’ve come very far,” Pulisic said of his form in an exclusive interview with CBS Sports. “There have been some real ups, also some times where I had some really difficult moments. I’m happy with my form now. I’m happy with the way I’m feeling. I’m confident.”

This season has not been without its challenges for Pulisic, who did not attempt to hide his frustration after being left on the substitutes’ bench for the second leg against Real Madrid. Having been the club’s marquee acquisition of 2019, the American international entered year two in west London vying for minutes alongside new signings Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech with Mason Mount also growing in prominence under both Frank Lampard and Tuchel.

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Across 42 appearances Pulisic has played only one minute fewer than Havertz and has been a more consistent presence than Ziyech so far this season.

“It’s normal [to face such competition],” Pulisic said. “When you come to a big club like Chelsea there’s going to be competition and that really just makes us better. I have to earn my place always. I have to play hard and it has helped me improve a lot. 

“We have a lot of incredible talent. I think I’m a very creative player and someone who can offer something very different with dribbling, those types of movements. I always look to attack.”

On his desire to play on the biggest stages, Pulisic added: “I definitely love the big games. That’s why we play football. I don’t need any motivation for these games. I’m ready to play, I want to play.”

With USMNT counterpart Zack Steffen unlikely to be selected ahead of goalkeeper Ederson for Manchester City in Lisbon, Pulisic would make history if he featured for Chelsea, becoming the first American to play in a Champions League final. For a youngster who can still remember his father picking him up from school early to watch midweek finals it is an exciting moment even if his priority is to be raising the trophy with his team-mates on Saturday night.

“Obviously it’s a really cool accomplishment but it’s not what I’m going for,” he said. “I really want to win, not even to be the first American to win, just in general for this team. It has been a long season and we really want to push on to win this.”



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