Conte: Showing their class and mentality

Antonio Conte spoke about two of his Spanish stars in detail ahead of tomorrow night’s meeting with a team from that country.

Atletico Madrid are the visitors to Stamford Bridge for our final Champions League group stage game, and they arrive in London knowing they have to win to stand any chance of making it to the last 16. The boss considered the challenge us that awaits in his pre-game press conference, held tonight in the Drake Suite in the West Stand at Stamford Bridge.

He first answered a question about team news, reporting that David Luiz remains out injured because of a problem with his knee. Conte also explained that Kylian Hazard, Eden’s younger brother who trained with the first team this morning, is one of a number of younger players to have done so this season.

A Spanish journalist in the room then wanted to know Conte’s thoughts on Alvaro Morata, who already has 10 goals to his name this season having joined us in the summer from Atleti’s great rivals Real.

‘Alvaro is very happy to play for Chelsea, and I am very happy to have a player like him,’ Conte said.

‘For Alvaro it is the first season to play with regularity, and he is showing he is a great striker. For me, he has a lot of room for improvement and to become one of the best strikers in the world.

‘I repeat: I am very happy that Morata is in our team.’

Morata’s compatriot Cesc Fabregas had spoken to the media shortly before Conte, and the boss was asked how the midfielder had successfully forced his way into the team.

‘Cesc at the start of the last season didn’t play a lot, but I was very happy because through his work, he tried to change my mind, and it happened,’ Conte acknowledged.

‘In the second part of the last season he started to play with regularity, and he was very important for us to win the title last season.

‘This season he continued to work very hard. He showed me great commitment and great behaviour. The coach has to make the best decision for the team, because the coach wants to win in the same way as the players and fans do.

‘I tried to make the best decision. This season he is playing with regularity. He is performing well and I hope he can continue like this for a long time.

‘He is young,’ Conte added. ‘When you are 30 years old, you have at least five years to play football.

‘To play at this level you must have great desire and will, because this level is not simple. You have a lot of competition with other players, but Cesc has great ambition. He is a winner in his mind and his mentality. For this reason, he is very strong.’

 Conte in training at Cobham this morning

Conte also had words of praise for his counterpart Diego Simeone, who he knows very well as an opponent on the pitch and in the dugout in Italy. Conte pointed out the fact there is a good chance Atletico won’t qualify is testament to the quality in our Champions League group, which we will top with victory tomorrow.

‘Atletico are always a strong team, before and now. They are in a good moment of form, but it’s the same for us. Tomorrow the game will be open because Atletico Madrid will try to win the game, and it’ll be the same for us. The only difference is that the final result for them is very important, and for us we have already qualified, but at the same time a great team has to play every game to try to win.

‘The most important thing was to qualify for the next round, because one of Atletico or Roma will go out of this tournament. We must be pleased with our path in this tournament, even if I maybe regret one game against Roma away.

‘We want to play a big game and try to win, that’s normal. If you see the other groups, you have the same risk if you arrive first or second. If you arrive first you can draw Real Madrid or Bayern Munich or Juventus.

‘We have to try to do our best tomorrow, and then we will see what happens in the draw.’