Antonio Conte is yet to decide his starting XI for Monday’s FA Cup quarter-final but at the moment he has a full and fit squad to choose from.
There are a couple more training sessions to go before we take to the Stamford Bridge pitch but Conte told the press at Cobham today that everybody is currently available for selection.
‘I have to decide the starting XI,’ Conte said. ‘For sure I try to make the best decision for the team, because we want to go to the next round, like Manchester United.’
Comparisons were drawn by some present with the 4-0 victory we enjoyed against the same opposition earlier in the season.
‘In October, before the game, I was sure of facing a great team. It’s the same now. Manchester United have, together with City, the best squad in the league.
‘They have a lot of great players with great talent and experience of winning. For sure it will be a really tough game for us and for them.
‘Now for us it’s better, because in October we didn’t know our future. Now we are in March and we are on top of the table. We have a good identity. We are showing good football, but for sure it will be a really tough game against a good team.’
Conte stressed that pre-match talk or predictions made means little once the whistle blows.
‘I hope to be favourites, but to show this on the pitch, not only in the words,’ he explained.
‘The facts are on the pitch. We must talk during the game on the pitch, not before. I prefer to focus on the game, and my players to speak with facts.
‘The most important thing is the pitch, to prepare your team in the right way with good organisation, to think about my team, to try and improve my players through work.
‘My players and I are focused on the game, on the pitch, on the work, to try to improve every day,’ Conte added.
‘Mind games don’t bring you to win, above all if you face a team or a person who is focused on his work on the pitch, and who trusts his work a lot.’
Conte responded to speculation regarding himself and some of his squad by pointing out it is normal for players to be linked with other teams when you are doing well, but not to forget that ‘Chelsea is a great team like Barcelona or Real Madrid’.
The press conference finished with Conte being asked how he would feel if he could lead the Blues to a league and FA Cup double in his first season in charge.
‘First of all, we have to win. Now, it’s very difficult to say this. We need 24 points to be sure of winning the title. There are 11 games to go.
‘For us, it’s important to go game by game in the league and in the FA Cup. We want to go in the next round but we all know it will be very difficult. We want to try and go to the next round, and then we will see.
‘But until now we have won nothing.’