Conte: Seizing the moment in Spain

Antonio Conte sees this season as a chance for Chelsea to play a part in turning the tide of recent Spanish success in the Champions League.

Our manager was talking shortly after touching down in Madrid 24 hours before his side take on Atletico, a club which has not lost at home in 11 European games against English opponents. Yet Chelsea’s record in Spain is healthy too, with no defeat here in our past nine visits, two of those games against Atletico, and Conte is aiming to make it two wins out of two at the start of this season’s group stage.

‘Atletico Madrid is a really good team with great experience in this competition,’ he said. ‘In the last few years they have always played a great Champions League, and to reach the final twice is not simple, it is not for all the teams. It means you are strong team with a good coach and good organisation and for sure, we must pay good attention.

‘Chelsea last season did not play in this competition so we are excited to play it, but for sure tomorrow we know very well we have to face a really good team.  

‘We have to play every game with the will to try to win. I watched Atletico’s game versus Roma and they played very well and maybe deserved to win the game. We were playing against Qarabag and played a really good game, and tomorrow is an important game for both teams. We have to try to play our football but show great respect for Atletico. But this season for sure we have great enthusiasm and desire to show we deserve to play in this competition.’

Looking wider than just this week’s game, Conte added:

‘The last few years for sure in this competition, and also the Europa League apart from last season, the Spanish teams have dominated. It means these teams are very strong and very good and also have a lot of experience in these competitions. We have to try to change this history.’

Important in that quest will be Eden Hazard. If the time has come for Chelsea to make an impact again in Europe, it is also here for the Belgian star according to Conte.

‘Last season Eden played very well and a really important season for us to win the league. He showed in every game a great talent to be a really good player. The Champions League is very important for him but also for the team. This competition brings you to another level and he has all the possibility to do that. He is a top player, he is fit and he is in contention to start the game. It is the right moment.’

All the rest of the squad with the exception of Danny Drinkwater are available. Conte reported Pedro has a minor problem but nothing serious and David Luiz’s broken wrist will not keep him out.

‘David is an important player for us and this type of injury won’t stop him tomorrow. He is in contention for the game.’