Conte: Ready to play as a team

Antonio Conte says we will need to be at our best in order to overcome a strong Manchester United side on Sunday, but we are heading to Old Trafford with one sole aim – to win the match.

In a packed media room at Cobham, the Italian spoke to the assembled press and looked ahead to what he called a ‘massive game’.

Conte revealed he has no fresh injury concerns, but David Luiz, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Ross Barkley remain unavailable.

The Italian then spoke about the significance of the fixture.

‘We have to look at ourselves and understand that from now until the end of the season every game is very important,’ said the Blues boss. ‘To get three points will be important for ourselves and United. The fight for the Champions League is open, there are many great teams and someone has to miss out.

‘This is not a simple game, especially when you play at Old Trafford, but at the same time after playing Barcelona this test will be very important for us, to see our reaction and approach in a difficult atmosphere.’

Having already beaten United earlier in the season, Conte will be sending his team out with the intention of completing a league double over the Red Devils and moving level on points with our hosts.

‘You have to start the game with only one target in your mind, to try to get three points,’ he said.  

‘This is very important for the mentality. If you have a winning mentality you try to reach only one result, to win.

‘During the game a lot of situations can happen. If you draw against United it could be a good result but only after you’ve played to try to win. Last season we lost the game so we must pay great attention. 

‘They have a lot of fantastic players, their team is also very physical. We must pay great attention because when you play against United anything can happen.

‘It’s a massive game for us and we have to put 120 per cent of our strength into it, we want to try to get three points, it will be difficult but we must try.’

Conte was asked about some of the comments made by him and Jose Mourinho earlier in the season, and whether or not they would shake hands on Sunday.

‘In the past both of us have said things,’ he responded. ‘For me it’s okay and I’m not interested about speaking about this topic. I’m not interested in this.’

Our record away from home against the big teams this season has been good, with a win against Tottenham and draws at both Liverpool and Arsenal.

Sunday’s test is the first of two in a week, with a trip to Manchester City to follow, and Conte explained what we will need to do in order to win the game.

‘When you want to try to get three points you mustn’t lose your balance,’ he said. ‘We have to play with great balance, and intelligence to understand the way we have to attack. Man United are masters on the counter attack with players like Lukaku, Lingard, Martial and Mata.

‘For us it’s important to play a good game and try to get three points. If it’s Hazard, Willian, Pedro, Giroud or even Courtois who scores, it’s the same. We must be ready to play as a team and help each other.’

Since our last meeting with United, they secured the services of Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal. Conte expects the Chilean and Paul Pogba, a player he coached at Juventus, to be involved on Sunday.

‘United were strong before and are strong now,’ he said. ‘When you add a great player like Sanchez you are stronger. But our situation doesn’t change. We have to prepare for the game and my expectation is to see him on the pitch with Lukaku, then I don’t know if they will have another midfielder or a number 10.

‘We are talking about a top player, a fantastic player,’ he added, when asked about Pogba. ‘My expectation is to see him on the pitch. If he stays out it will be better.

‘We are talking about a top player and every coach has to try to find the right way to manage him. He is showing at United he is a top player.’

While a win at Old Trafford this weekend is our immediate aim, Conte says our overall ambitions for the campaign stretch beyond one fixture.

‘I consider it a big achievement if you are able to win something at the end of a season,’ he said.

‘If you are happy about winning one game against a team it means you don’t have a great mentality.

‘A great achievement for us will be if we win something and take the target we started the season with in our minds.

‘It’s a massive game. For sure, if we win we are happy but there will be 10 games to go. We have to enjoy the moment if we win but understand the season is very long.’