LONDON • Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta insists the much-maligned Jorginho will eventually silence the critics because he is reaching peak form ahead of today's crucial Premier League home clash against Watford.
The Italy midfielder has endured a difficult first season after his ponderous displays made him a target for the club's frustrated fans.
Blues boss Maurizio Sarri brought Jorginho with him from Napoli in the close-season having identified Chelsea's midfield as a weak link.
He believed the player was the right man to help implement his tactical game plan after they worked together successfully in Serie A.
It has not turned out that way as Chelsea, with N'Golo Kante pushed out of his preferred defensive midfield role, struggled to adapt to "Sarri-ball", leading to criticism for both Jorginho and his manager.
But Azpilicueta pointed out the influential performance of Brazil-born Jorginho, 27, at Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday as proof of his importance.
Even when patched up due to a bandaged head wound, he was the key figure in their 1-1 draw in the Europa League semi-final first leg.
Azpilicueta said: "It was an important game for him. He grew into the game by getting more control, creating more space for the two attacking midfielders where he could find them in very dangerous positions.
"He can create that pass and move forward. It also meant we could enjoy more space in front of us."
Jorginho's performance gave the platform for fellow midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek to give one pf his best club displays, including the assist for Pedro's equaliser.
Now the Blues return to Premier League action as FA Cup finalists Watford visit Stamford Bridge.
Sarri's fourth-placed side are guaranteed to qualify for next season's Champions League via a top-four finish if they win beat Watford and Leicester in their last two games.
Chelsea, two points ahead of fifth-placed Arsenal (66), can also reach the Champions League by winning the Europa League.
Should the Gunners not win today at home to Brighton, the Blues will be assured of a top-four spot with a victory over Watford.
Following his impressive performance, Loftus-Cheek could be an important player in the tail end of the season but Sarri believes he should not overexert the player.
He said the 23-year old will never truly overcome the back problems that have frustrated his season and his senior career, and will always need to follow a personalised fitness and training programme to maximise his game time.
The midfielder, who has a curve in the spine in his lower back, has suffered muscular spasms since he was a teenager and, along with a specific training routine, has taken up yoga to manage the problem.
"I don't think he will need surgery," said Sarri. "But we have to control him.
"In the last month he has been able to train every day so, for us, it's really very important."
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CHELSEA V WATFORD
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