Antonio Conte has urged his side to build on their impressive recent run of form when Huddersfield visit Stamford Bridge tomorrow as we attempt to close the gap in the fight for Champions League qualification.
A Chelsea victory would move us level on points with Liverpool, who we beat on Sunday, with just one match remaining, while Tottenham, who are currently two points ahead of us, are also in action against Newcastle tomorrow.
The Blues are aiming for a fifth consecutive Premier League victory, and Conte has been pleased with his side’s form in recent weeks.
‘The only way to put a bit of pressure on is to get three points in every game and in the last month we did this,’ said the Italian. ‘We won three games away, against Southampton, Burnley and Swansea, three tough games, and we won at home against Liverpool, so we are doing our job in the best way to put a bit of pressure on Tottenham and Liverpool.
‘The situation is not in our hands. Liverpool have the possibility to win their last game against Brighton to reach a place in the Champions League and it’s the same for Tottenham, they have two games at home and it will be enough to win one and draw one.
‘For sure there is a bit of disappointment because this season we dropped a lot of points in a stupid way, especially after games when we created many chances but we weren’t able to score more goals, at the end of the game the result was bad for us.
‘We must be disappointed but now there is no time for regrets, we have to play two games, against Huddersfield and Newcastle, and then the FA Cup final, then at the end of the season we’ll see.’
Conte, who reported Alvaro Morata is in contention to feature tomorrow having missed the win over Liverpool through injury, was asked if it was easier chasing teams down, rather than being chased, as we were for much of last season.
‘Do you think it’s easier? I don’t think so,’ he said. ‘I prefer to stay ahead and the other teams have the pressure of catching us, like last season. In the last 12 games Tottenham tried winning 10 games to put pressure until the end and we were able to win many games and keep the right distance to win the title. It’s easier if you are ahead because you know the situation is in your hands.’
In terms of the match itself, Huddersfield go into the fixture having earned a credible goalless draw at Manchester City on Sunday, but David Wagner’s side are still not safe, which makes them a dangerous opponent, according to Conte.
‘Our expectations are to have a tough game and Huddersfield are fighting to avoid relegation so for this reason we must pay great attention. We have to play another tough game after only two days of rest and against Liverpool we spent a lot of mental and physical energy.
‘We must recover, find the right solution and think we can win the game in 90 minutes and not in the way that we start. We must be clever and try to win the game in the whole 90 minutes.’
Conte went on to speak about two players who are coming to the end of their first season or half-season at Chelsea – Olivier Giroud and Tiemoue Bakayoko – after both impressed in Sunday’s win against Liverpool.
‘For sure it was a good signing for us,’ he responded, when asked about Giroud’s impact. ‘We are talking about a player with great experience, an international player. He’s played in many leagues, I think it’s a good signing for us and a good fit. He played a really good game against Liverpool, not just because of the goal, but because he worked very hard for the team with the ball and without the ball, so we must be very pleased with the signing.
‘If you remember well I always said that we are talking about a young player, only 23 years old and this is his first season in this country,’ he added, when asked about Bakayoko’s development.
‘To arrive and adapt yourself quickly in this league is not simple. It’s not simple to go into our idea of football. He has the right characteristics to play for Chelsea. I trust in him and he played a good game against Liverpool. But I know him and for sure he has a lot of space for improvement. For this I am sure but we are talking about a young player with not great seasons on his back in the past, only one season with Monaco last season when he played often.’