Rivals' big-money moves have Azpilicueta relishing the looming EPL challenge

New signings aplenty for rival clubs has Cesar Azpilicueta eager for the fresh challenge that awaits in the 2017/18 Premier League season…

Once teammates, Chelsea defensive stalwart Cesar Azpilicueta will now attempt to neutralise the threat posed by Romelu Lukaku when the Belgian dons the colours of bitter rivals Manchester United this coming season.

Aside from Lukaku, Azpilicueta will also be facing new challenges in the form of pacey new Arsenal signing Alexandre Lacazette, skilful fresh import Mohamed Salah of Liverpool and the exciting Bernardo Silva now at Manchester City.

We know that every team is getting stronger and we have to be prepared

Rather than shy away from those daunting tasks, the 27-year-old Azpilicueta cannot wait for the league to start.

"It’s quite exciting here. The teams are getting better and better and it’s more difficult to win the League,” the Spanish international said over a phone interview with FourFourTwo.

“There are teams in the ‘top four’ that are now out of the Champions League, so we have to take the challenge and compete because it’s not just about one or two teams."

He added: "We know that every team is getting stronger and we have to be prepared."

Lukaku appears quite pleased with his new colours...

Azpilicueta and his Chelsea teammates will continue their preparations for the new season in Singapore from July 25-27 as part of the 2017 International Champions Cup (ICC).

German Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich and Italian giants Inter Milan will also be competing in the tournament.

A regular last season under Antonio Conte’s title-winning Blues side, ‘Dave’ as he is endearingly known to the Stamford Bridge faithful was not allowed to talk about any transfer speculations surrounding the club during the chat with FFT.

This includes the murmurs about his rumoured move to Barcelona and teammate Diego Costa’s long-speculated shift to Atletico Madrid.

However, it does seem like the defender will most likely make his way to Singapore amidst the rumours as he looks forward to a fruitful pre-season that hopefully reaps rewards for Chelsea’s looming campaign.

“When you’re in a game, even if it’s pre-season, you want to win. We’ll be happy only if we win,” he said.

“But we have to know that it’s more than that. We have to prepare the way we want to play. We will be training hard to get to the best condition for the first official game.”

When asked about the prospect of repeating as league champions, Azpilucueta added: “This is the season to try to retain the title, we know how difficult it is. But we are willing to fight and try to do well.”

Tickets for the tournament can be purchased at www.sportshubtix.sg, the Sports Hub Box Office as well as at all Singapore Post outlets. Tickets start from $25 (child) and $40 (adult) for the ICC Singapore.

FIXTURES:

Tuesday, July 25

Chelsea FC vs FC Bayern

Thursday, July 27

FC Bayern vs FC Internazionale

Saturday, July 29

Chelsea FC vs FC Internazionale