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Exclusive: Christian Pulisic welcomes the challenge brought by new arrivals at Chelsea as he insists something "really special" is forming at Stamford Bridge
You can watch Christian Pulisic's Chelsea take on Manchester City exclusively live on BT Sport this Thursday evening.
And with a core of young academy stars such as Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori playing key roles and both Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech arriving this summer, there’s a sense that there’s a lot more to come.
At 21 years old, Christian Pulisic is expected to be a big part of that, even if the American’s introduction to Premier League football has been unorthodox.
Just as he appeared to be breaking into Lampard’s XI on a regular basis he was struck down by an adductor injury.
Then just as he got back to full fitness, the league was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
With Werner and Ziyech's imminent arrivals and the expectation of more signings this summer, Pulisic expects stiff competition for places in Lampard’s side.
But as the winger explains during an exclusive interview with BT Sport, he welcomes the challenge.
“I enjoy playing with and against good players because that’s what elevates my game,” says Pulisic, who featured alongside forwards and wingers such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ousmane Dembele, Jadon Sancho and Marco Reus at Borussia Dortmund.
“When you’re playing at the highest level there’s always going to be competition within teams. I’ve had it before and I’ll always have it in my career.
“It just helps me get better. I can learn things from them and they can learn things from me, I think it’s good to have in a team.”
As for Werner, Pulisic does little to dampen the anticipation building around the forward, who has netted 26 goals in 33 Bundesliga matches for RB Leipzig this campaign and will join Chelsea in a £48 million deal during the off-season.
“If you look at his stats alone this year you should be very excited. Obviously I’ve seen him play and played against him – he’s very quick, very dynamic and he’s a good goalscorer,” says Pulisic.
“Chelsea fans should be very excited.”
Supporters will hope the purchase of one of the Bundesliga’s finest players heralds a new wave of arrivals at the club.
After the recent lifing of a transfer ban, owner Roman Abramovich appears ready once again to splash the cash, just as he did when he first arrived at Chelsea back in 2003.
Leicester left-back Ben Chilwell and Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz have both been linked strongly with moves to west London yet Pulisic believes the nucleus of a successful team is already taking shape at Stamford Bridge.
At 17 years and 212 days, Pulisic became the youngest non-German to score a Bundesliga goal when he netted against Hamburg in April 2016.
“We do have something really special forming,” he says.
“It’s been great because you’ve seen a lot of new guys and some young guys coming up and having great seasons – that’s been awesome to see.
“We’ve had a good season already but we are focusing on finishing in the top four and ending really strongly.
“I’m looking forward to it with more guys coming in and I think it’s going to be a really good mould of guys. Chelsea fans can be excited because I know a lot of us players are!”
From a personal perspective, Pulisic can reflect on an eventful few months with the club.
The £58 million man cut his summer holidays short to impress Lampard in pre-season and was largely in Chelsea’s team for the first few months of the season.
His first goals for the club came in a flurry – a perfect hat-trick in a 4-2 win at Burnley in October was followed up by three goals in his next six matches.
Yet a run of eight games without a goal or assist followed before an injury sustained in the New Year saw him ruled out for the next couple of months.
He’d returned to full training just as the Premier League was postponed on 13 March so Sunday’s goalscoring return against Aston Villa was his first appearance since 1 January.
“I didn’t expect anything to be easy coming here and I was happy with my first half of the season,” Pulisic says.
“There were some difficult moments but I got my games in and thought I played well, I was happy.
“Then I had a pretty tough injury and it was pretty crazy – when I got back from that this whole [coronavirus] thing happened so I’ve been out for a while.
“It’s been a very interesting first season for sure but we’re rolling with it! As you can see from the [Villa] game, I’m motivated to keep playing and I just want to finish out the season strong.”
During a frustrating spell on the sidelines, Pulisic kept his mind focused.
“It’s about keeping that same goal in mind even during an injury,” he explains. “I set small goals for myself - being back and performing.
“I want to be part of this team and help this team because I know we are going to need all the points we can get.
“It’s just about keeping myself motivated and knowing that I can truly help this team – that’s where my mind's been at the whole time.”
With four games in the next ten days, Lampard will need every member of his squad to contribute in the congested Premier League fixture list ahead of Chelsea.
And with the new five substitutions rule brought in to help ease players back in following the lengthy lay-off, Pulisic knows rotation will be key for Chelsea’s chances.
“Things have changed,” Pulisic, who lived in England for a year aged seven, says.
“We’re going to have to play a lot of games here but we have a deep roster and a lot of options.
“I know we are going to be up for this challenge. For me it’s just about keeping myself healthy and ready for any game.
“Keeping my body ready so when game-time hits I’m ready to go and I’m an option at all times – that’s the key.”
Ready is exactly what Pulisic and Chelsea will have to be on Thursday evening when they host a Manchester City side who’ve been imperious since returning from the postponement.
Pep Guardiola’s men thrashed Arsenal 3-0 in their first match back before producing a scintillating display of attacking football at the Etihad on Monday to dismantle Sean Dyche’s Burnley 5-0.
You can catch all the action exclusively live from 7.30pm on BT Sport 1 HD, BT Sport Ultimate, BTSport.com or the BT Sport app.
It’s a match with huge implications for the Premier League title, with anything less than a City victory enough to hand Liverpool their first league success in 30 years.
Yet Pulisic isn’t concerned with settling the title race. “If it’s tied in the last minute and I’m about to score a goal I’m not going to be thinking about Liverpool winning the league!” he laughs.
“It’s just about us winning the game. I won’t be thinking much about that but obviously we want to go and get a good result because we need it.”
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