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Conte: Continue towards another challenge

Ahead of a game against very familiar opposition to him, Antonio Conte explained the decision-making process he will undertake when he comes to select his starting XI.

We have met Arsenal twice at Wembley in recent months and also, between those games at the national stadium, faced them in a pre-season friendly in China.

On Sunday, Stamford Bridge will host a London derby that is nearly 110 years old, but before the boss spoke about it at his press conference at Cobham, he had a message to deliver following an incident at Parsons Green earlier today.

‘I would like to say all our thoughts are with the people affected by the tube incident,’ Conte began.

‘This type of situation is very dangerous and your mind goes there. But we have to try and think only to play the game. I remember when I was coach of the national team and there was a terrorist attack, we stayed with the national team and played against Belgium.

‘In this case it’s important to continue. There is a great disappointment for this and it’s difficult to understand why, but we have to continue and show that we are stronger than them.’

When the topic of discussion was turned towards football inside a busy media room at our training ground, Conte spoke about the rationale he will consider when he picks his team.

‘I have another day to check on the physical condition of my players and then I’ll try to make the best decision for the Arsenal game.

The answer of my players in the last game was positive. I’m pleased with the commitment and the performance of my players, it was very positive. Now there is another tough game.

‘Arsenal are one of the top six teams in England. They have a very good squad and have the chance to fight for the title. It’s a massive game for us. When you play against Arsenal it’s always a massive game – the same as against City, United, Liverpool, Tottenham.

‘Anything can happen. We have to fight against a rival. I watched their game [on Thursday] and they rotated a lot of players and rested a lot of players for the game against us, so I don’t think the fact they played after us is an advantage.

‘I hope to finish the game with 11 players,’ Conte added with a wry smile after what happened at Wembley. ‘Then, during the game, the best will win.’

One player who definitely won’t be featuring on Sunday is Danny Drinkwater. The boss reported he is unlikely to play before the next international break, three weeks away, because of the calf injury he sustained in training at the weekend. Conte had more positive news regarding Eden Hazard’s fitness.

‘For sure he’s improving. Having this patience with him is paying off. He is very close to being totally fit. We have to continue in this way. I have to make the best decision for the team and the players, but he’s improving a lot and is very close to being 100 per cent fit.’

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