Antonio Conte has praised the spirit of the squad ahead of what he describes as a ‘great test’ tomorrow at Manchester City.
The Blues boss was speaking to the media in the press room at Stamford Bridge on the eve of our biggest game of the season so far, with his team going in search of an eighth consecutive Premier League victory. They trained at the stadium rather than Cobham prior to taking a train north.
Conte revealed he still needs to check on the physical condition of ‘one or two’ of his players before deciding on his starting line-up, but he will have no concern making changes to the side which has started our last six matches if necessary.
‘I’m pleased with the attitude of all the players, those who are playing and those who have been on the bench or in the stands, there is a good atmosphere,’ he said.
‘Tomorrow it’s a really tough game, a great test for us and our formation. We know it won’t be easy, we face a really great team with great players and a good idea of football.
‘We want to show we are working well and that we are growing. It’s another step for us to show what has changed since the start of the season.
'For sure it’s a big game. This season we’ve also played Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham and Man United. In this league every game is big because it’s difficult, so tough. This is my first season in England and it’s fantastic, I’m looking forward to it.'
The Blues came from behind in last weekend’s win over Tottenham to maintain our impressive sequence of results, and Conte says lessons have been learned from our first-half performance in that game.
‘The first half against Tottenham was very difficult but usually when that happens you can learn a lot,’ he added. ‘This week we studied our first half a lot and I showed the way to improve in the future.
‘It’s important to remember we played against a top team with a great squad and manager. They fought for the title until the end last season, while we finished 10th. Now they are seven points behind us which is a great achievement for us.
‘Tottenham can fight until the end to win the title and if we were the team of the start of the season I’m sure we would have lost that type of game.
‘We conceded a goal in the last game and when you arrive after six wins in a row without conceding there is a bit of disappointment, but Eriksen scored a fantastic goal. We didn’t concede many chances for them to score again. Tomorrow is an important test for our solidity.’
After winning the October Manager of the Month award, Conte has been nominated for the November prize after steering his side through the month with a 100 per cent record.
Pedro and Diego Costa are in contention to win the Player of the Month prize, and the Italian was full of praise for his striker, the joint-top scorer in the Premier League.
‘I’m pleased for Diego, he’s showing great respect and passion in the right way during these games. It’s fantastic for him, for me, his team-mates and the club. It’s great to talk about him in a positive way because at the start of the season the only questions about Diego were about his passion not being good. He’s playing well, his attitude and behaviour is fantastic and it’s important to continue in this way.’
The Blues boss also responded to a question regarding the future of Steve Holland, following the official appointment of Gareth Southgate as England manager earlier this week.
‘The situation is very clear: Steve is one of my assistant coaches and is working very well,’ said Conte. ‘He’s been at Chelsea for many years, I’m very happy with his commitment, work-rate and attitude. He’s been a great help to me.
‘I don’t know what will happen with the future, that’s a matter for the FA, but I’m pleased to have him as my assistant coach.'