Tammy Abraham is Chelsea through and through, no doubt about it. Having grown up watching the Blues with his family – including the enthralling Champions League win over Bayern Munich in 2012 – he now finds himself coming towards the business end of his first full season as the main man up top for his boyhood club.

The good times keeps coming for the young England frontman including a replay of that famous final from 2012 to look forward to as Chelsea meet Bayern Munich in the last 16 of the Champions League. It’s a huge leap for a player who was playing in the Championship last season. Taking time out from his shoot for the new Nike Premier League 19/20 “Tunnel Vision” match ball, he sat down with SoccerBible to talk about the change in mentality for the business end of the season, the specific challenges that come with being a striker, and that tasty Champions League clash.

Tammy, this ball signals the business end of the season, a time for focus. How would you say your mentality and preparations have changed over the last couple of years?

You have to become stronger. The reason why I say that is because you use that experience that you’ve had over the past few seasons and you add it to your game, you add it to what you need in this day and age. For me it’s about the fact that I know how many games that I’ve played so far, and it’s about looking after myself and getting myself ready for the next one.

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What are the different mental challenges that come with playing at the highest level as you’re doing now?

It’s tough, you know. There’s a lot of ups and downs. But it’s like I said, you know what’s best for your body, you know what’s best for yourself, and you have to prepare it in the best way possible and you’ve got to keep going.

How much of the team’s mentality comes from the direction and guidance of the manager? How much influence does he have?

He has a lot. He’s someone that we’ve always looked up to I’m sure, especially midfielders, because he was one of the greatest midfielders there has ever been in the Premier League. For me he’s always been a role model while I was growing up in the Chelsea academy, watching games day in and day out, watching him on the pitch. So obviously for him to now be my manager is motivating. He knows how to be at the top level and what to do.

Is there any shift in mentality from how you guys are at the start of the season compared to now, going into the business end?

Yeah, we’ve got to stay strong, stay as a team. Like I said there’s been a lot of games and there’s still a few games left, so we’ve got to maintain the positive vibes around the changing room, on the training pitch, on the match pitch. We’ve just got to stick together as one big family.

What specific mental challenges come with being a striker? Do you think it’s one of the toughest positions in that respect?

One of. There’s going to be games when you miss chances, which can affect your performance, but it’s about staying strong, believing in yourself; that’s where self-belief comes into play. You never know how many chances you’re going to get. You might just get that one, and you ave to be strong to take that chance.

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Is there anything in your mind before a game that you like to say to yourself or anything that you remember in terms of advice to get yourself in the right frame of mind?

Sometimes. Normally, if it’s been a while, watching videos, just going on YouTube before a game and watching top class strikers around the world, and even if it’s just watching your own clips at times as well just to give you that confidence again.

Is that something you do on the day of the game?

Day of the game or night before.

Who do you tend to watch?

Depends who I’m feeling that day, you know. I’ve watched the likes of Lewandowski, Firmino, Aguero, Harry Kane, and then players from the past like Thierry Henry and Didier Drogba.

As someone who has played in the Championship, do you remember any instances of more seasoned professionals trying to get into your head and mess with you a little bit?

Yeah, I remember my first season on loan at Bristol City, I can’t remember what game it was, but we were playing, and before I scored a guy was like “Who’s this young lad? I’ve had many years in this game and he just comes in and thinks he’s…” I can’t remember the exact words, but it’s just those instances when you realise that you’re actually a professional, playing in real men’s football.

Do you get much of that in the Premier League, or is that something you experienced down the leagues?

Not as much. But you just have to laugh it off and carry on with your game.

Who has been your toughest opponent this season?

Toughest opponent would have to be Van Dijk. He’s big, strong, smart, everything that a defender needs to be.

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Is this the game against Bayern Munich in the Champions League going to be a marker of how far the team have come?

Yeah, it will. We have to take all of our confidence from this season into it, into that one game, just to fight and leave everything out there.

It’s a repeat of the 2012 final. You probably would’ve been about 13 or 14 years old. Do you remember where you watched that game?

I watched it in my living room with my family. I remember I was living in South London at that time, and we had the game on and I can’t remember what minute it was but I remember seeing Didier Drogba from a corner from Mata, just heading the ball in and my whole family were just jumping up celebrating.

Just seven years later and you’re playing them in the same stadium as well. How surreal is that thought?

Unbelievable. It still hasn’t hit me yet. I just can’t wait for it. It still feels far, but I’m sure it will be round the corner soon, so I’ll just be excited for it.

Last one, what’s been your favourite moment of the season so far?

It would have to be my hat-trick against Wolves.

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