Conte: Finding the right balance

MANAGER'S PRESS CONFERENCE: Wolves (A) FA Cup 16/17

News 17/02/2017

Antonio Conte will make changes to his side for tomorrow’s trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the FA Cup fifth round, and the Italian says we are fully focused on overcoming difficult opponents and reaching the quarter-finals of a competition he is hungry to win.

Speaking to the media at Cobham earlier this afternoon, Conte was first asked about the fitness of John Terry, who missed last week’s game at Burnley.

As well as providing some positive news regarding the skipper’s availability, Conte also explained why two other players won't feature at Molineux.

‘Yes John Terry is fit for this game, he’s okay,’ reported the Blues boss. ‘All the players are available but there are situations which are better to keep under control. Marcos Alonso needs a bit of rest, and with David Luiz we have an opportunity to give him a full week to recover well. All the players are in good form and the only problem I have is making the best choices for the game.

‘His knee is okay, it’s improved a lot since the game at Man City,’ Conte added when asked further about David Luiz. ‘It’s important to keep the situation under control. He’s doing training sessions with the physical coach.’

Asked about the long-terms futures of two strikers, Diego Costa and Dominic Solanke, Conte said he was confident Diego Costa would still be at the club next season, but less so on Solanke.

‘I don’t know about this situation [a new contract for Diego Costa],’ he said. ‘It’s very important to be focused on the present and not look too far ahead. At the end of the season we’ll see the situation. I’m confident [he wants to stay] but now it’s important to keep great concentration for the present, which is tomorrow’s game against Wolves. We must go into the next round.

‘I like to win every competition in every season. For sure, it won’t be easy in the league or the FA Cup. If you ask me if I want to try to win both competitions, yes for sure. We must have this winning mentality. When you are a Chelsea coach or player you must have the ambition to win every competition you play.

‘In the league there are six teams who can fight until the end to win the title. In the FA Cup there are 16 teams who are very strong. Our target is to reach the next round.

‘Tomorrow won’t be easy. Wolves beat Liverpool away and Stoke away. We must pay great attention because they showed in the recent past they have the capability to beat great teams. I hope tomorrow will be different and Chelsea will reach the next round.’

Conte also explained why, with these type of fixtures, it can be difficult to find the right blend when selecting his team.

‘When you have this type of game, at this moment, it’s very important to find the right balance,’ he said. ‘It could be a good opportunity to see some players who haven’t been playing a lot. It’s important to find the right balance and make the right choice.

‘I don’t want my players to stop for 14 days and then restart, which could be very dangerous. This competition is very important for us so we must reach the next round.’

One player who won’t be involved tomorrow is Charly Musonda, who continues to progress working under Conte’s guidance, but the Italian was full of praise for our Academy after Jody Morris’s Under-18s booked their place in another FA Youth Cup semi-final courtesy of a 1-0 win over Leicester on Wednesday.

‘Charly Musonda is not in the squad, he’s working very hard and very well in training and he’s having supplementary work with the physical coach,’ explained Conte.

‘Tomorrow he will play with the Under-23s against Man City. Now I think it’s better for him to play a whole game and stay with us. In the next games if he deserves to come with us I’m open to that eventuality.

‘The Academy is doing a really great job. In my squad we have a lot of young players from the Academy – Chalobah, Ake, Ruben, Aina - and it’s important to have a link between the first team and Academy.

‘These young players have stayed with me because they deserve it, not because I want to give them a gift. In the future I hope to absorb many players from the Academy.’