Antonio Conte says his team are full of belief that we can close the gap on the teams above us in the Premier League table.
Speaking to the media ahead of tomorrow’s game against Newcastle United, with his side looking to extend our unbeaten league run to seven games, Conte discussed a wide range of subjects including squad rotation and Rafa Benitez.
Firstly, however, he was asked if he would accept the charge he was given after being sent to the stands during Wednesday’s win over Swansea City.
‘I think it’s right to accept and pay the fine,’ said Conte. ‘As I said after the game, you know very well what happened and if the referee took this decision I have to respect it. I accept the decision and I will pay the fine.
‘I hope the referee learns something because for me Swansea were wasting time so he must protect the team that wanted to play football and win the game. I was angry because twice I said they were wasting time, the third time I shouted, but I accept the decision of the referee.
‘Now I’ll try to avoid suggesting this to the fourth official, I’ll change because I’ll push my players to tell the referee.’
Conte has no fresh injury concerns ahead of tomorrow’s game, and he provided an update on the fitness of David Luiz, who is still unavailable.
‘Luiz and Musonda are out, Batshuayi and Kenedy have just started to work with us,’ he said. ‘They need time to find their best physical condition but it’s important they are back.
‘Now David Luiz is having treatment in his knee. How long (will he be out for)? It’s not simple to understand how long but at the same time the doctor is doing his best to recover him soon.’
The Blues boss made four changes to the team against Swansea and he was rewarded with a good performance and, more importantly, three points. With no let-up in the schedule, he indicated he will rotate once again tomorrow.
‘In this period it’s very important to have rotation and give rest to all of the players,’ said Conte. ‘I think it was positive because we won the game, it was a good answer from all my players. When the period is so busy it’s a necessity to have this rotation.
‘Yes, but it’s normal,’ he added, when asked about his decision to rest Cesar Azpilicueta on Wednesday. ‘If you have to play four competitions in one season it’s normal to have this type of rotation. It’s right for every player to accept my decision. I try to make the best decision for us to try to win every game. I trust my players, I believe in my players and I like to give them the chance to show they deserve to play.’
The Blues go into tomorrow’s game three points behind Manchester United and 11 behind leaders Manchester City, but Conte is confident with so many matches left to play the ground can be made up.
‘I think it’s right to believe and to trust that we can catch them up,’ said Conte. ‘It’s right to have that mentality. In every game we must have the right desire and right will, but at the same time in this moment it’s very difficult for many reasons.
‘Man City have been getting good results at the end of games many times, which shows a great will from them to push until the end to win the game. We have to look at ourselves and go game by game.’
Newcastle manager Benitez returns to Stamford Bridge tomorrow having led us to Europa League success during his spell as interim manager in 2013.
Conte knows the Spaniard well from his time in Italy, when Benitez, was in charge of Napoli, and he spoke about their relationship.
‘That’s not true,’ Conte responded, when asked if he didn’t get on with Benitez. ‘I think Rafa did a great job in his time with Napoli. I remember when I was coach of the national team, I went to watch a Napoli training session and talk with him, we have a good relationship. He’s a good manager and he’s won a lot in his career. I have great respect for him.
‘I think Rafa in his spell here did well because to win the Europa League isn’t simple. I think it’s always right to give respect. Our fans are great in these circumstances.’