Antonio Conte has warned his players about the danger of underestimating Bournemouth as we prepare to face Eddie Howe’s side tomorrow evening, and the Italian says the team are completely focused on securing our second victory of the week when we head to the south coast.
Speaking to the media at Cobham this afternoon, Conte was first asked about the availability of Victor Moses, who has missed our last two games through injury.
He provided some positive news, before going on to speak about the test we face at the Vitality Stadium
‘Victor Moses trained with us yesterday and today, I have to check his situation and then make the best decision for the team but he’s available,’ reported the Blues boss.
‘For us it’s a great challenge because it’s not easy to play against Man City, a big game and big atmosphere, and then play after three days another tough game against Bournemouth. They are a really good team with a good coach. They have a good idea of football. I know the atmosphere at their stadium is hot. I think we must pay great attention because if we think tomorrow is easy we are making a great mistake.’
Another player who could be involved tomorrow is Nathan Ake, who spent the first half of the season on loan at the Cherries.
The versatile Dutchman was recalled in January by Conte, who explained why he believes it was the correct call.
‘I think it was the right decision because for us it was important for him to stay in our squad, also because it’s important for us to check on our players and then see the improvement,’ he said.
‘If we find a player is able to stay in the squad we must give him the possibility to show me and the club his capacity, why not? I’m happy to have Nathan. It’s not easy when you arrive and in front of you there are five really good central defenders. I’m pleased with his commitment and attitude, he’s a good player and it was the right decision.’
Conte, who also spoke about his desire to stay at Stamford Bridge following recent media reports regarding his future, believes the title race is still wide open despite our seven-point advantage over Tottenham at the top of the table.
That lead could be reduced by the time we play if the north Londoners avoid defeat in the early kick-off at home to Watford, but Conte is only concerned with our own result.
‘No I don’t think it’s an advantage because if they win, lose or draw it’s the same, we have a good pressure,’ he responded, when asked if playing later in the day was more beneficial. ‘For us it’s very important to look at ourselves. Tottenham’s result is important but ours is the most important thing.
‘This race is open. I think now I can see two teams, Chelsea and Tottenham, but anything can happen. There are 24 points to play for and other teams can enter the race.’
For Conte, one of the most pleasing aspects of the campaign up until now is the manner in which the team have coped when a particular player has been missing.
The absence of Moses over the last couple of games led to spells at right wing-back for both Pedro and Cesar Azpilicueta, while Kurt Zouma was brought into the side for the visit of Man City in midweek – his first Premier League start of the season – and slotted in seamlessly.
‘I’m pleased when that happens because it means every player is into our idea of football,’ said the Blues boss. ‘During the training sessions I have 20 players and I train 20 players in the same way, not 10 or 12.
‘I know during the season anything can happen with injuries and bans and you must have players able to play your idea of football. Zouma showed this in a tough game, he showed great commitment.
‘Victor Moses has showed this season he is an important player, but in these two games we showed we can play without him. But we also showed in the past, when we missed other players, that we can do the same.
‘We are a team and not 11 single players. If you think you can win the game with only one player you are in trouble because if you miss this player it’s impossible to win. You must be ready to find a solution when one player misses one or two games.’
There was a familiar face at Cobham yesterday as Claudio Ranieri, our former manager, popped in to see Conte, who was delighted to spend some time with his compatriot.
‘Claudio is a good friend and I was very pleased to see him yesterday at Cobham, to have a chat,’ said Conte. ‘It’s normal for me to ask something about last season, it was good to see him and I hope to see him again this season.
‘We spoke about our experiences in England and the different ways to train, if you compare England to Italy. It was a good chat with him. He’s a good friend and I wish him the best in the future.’
Fan Club members can watch a video below featuring behind-the scenes footage from training at Cobham.