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Giroud relishing Champions League challenge at Chelsea


Newly-signed Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud (L) sits with the team before the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge in London on January 31, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Glyn KIRK / 

Olivier Giroud pinpointed a return to Champions League football as a key factor in his decision to join Chelsea from Arsenal on the final day of the January transfer window.

Giroud was a helpless spectator as Chelsea crashed to a 3-0 defeat to Bournemouth on Wednesday to harm their chances of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

However, they remain eight points better off than Arsenal in the battle to finish in the top four, and also host Barcelona in the first leg of a blockbuster Champions League last 16 tie on February 20.

“The Champions League is massive for a football player. There is nothing above it when you’re playing for a club,” said the French international, who made six of his 10 starts for Arsenal this season in the Europa League.

“There will be two nice games against Barcelona. We know their qualities and I think everybody will need to be 100 per cent to go through.”

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s arrival at Arsenal paved the way for Giroud to leave after five-and-a-half years at the Emirates as he sought more minutes on the field to further his case for inclusion in France’s World Cup squad.

And his physical presence is just what Chelsea manager Antonio Conte sought during a frustrating January for the Italian with first-choice striker Alvaro Morata sidelined by a back injury.

“The most important thing was talking with the coach. I felt like he really wanted me and he really wanted to work with me,” Giroud added.

“I wanted to sign for Chelsea and nowhere else. I really wanted to play more. I wanted to stay in the Premier League, and Chelsea for me is perfect because I can even stay in London.

“But the first reason is the sporting challenge. That has always been my first priority. Everything is here for me to be happy.”

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