Conte: Focused on the present

Antonio Conte says concentrating on the here and now is vital during a key period in Chelsea's season.

As we travel to take on league leaders Manchester City this afternoon, Conte feels we can build on the display which earned us a draw against Barcelona in the first leg of our Champions League last-16 tie, before we were unfortunate not to take something from last weekend’s match at Old Trafford.

‘We played two good games and the result against United was unfair because I think we deserved more,’ said our head coach. ‘Don’t forget that in the second half, with three minutes to go, the linesman decided to give an offside, we also hit the crossbar and for a long time we dominated the game.

‘Against Barcelona we had a good performance and we will try to do the same against Manchester City.’

The Blues currently sit in fifth place and Conte says he and the players must be prepared for a battle between now and the campaign to secure a Champions League spot.

‘I think we have to continue to put all of ourself in this effort,’ he said. ‘This will be an important effort from now until the end of the season, to try to find a place in the Champions League.

‘I think the most important thing is to be focused on the present because the present is very important for us to try to do our best.’

Although all the focus has been on City in the build-up to this game, Conte is fully aware of the importance of all our matches across three different competitions in the coming fortnight.

‘Don’t forget we have to play against Crystal Palace before we play Barcelona,’ he said. ‘And then after Barcelona, we have to play against Leicester away in the FA Cup. For sure, this is a moment that is very crucial for us – these two weeks are very important for us.’

Conte is under no illusions as to the size of the task in front of us today. Man City have lost just one league game all season and extended their advantage at the top of the table on Thursday night with a 3-0 win over Arsenal, having beaten the Gunners by the same scoreline in the Carabao Cup final.

The Citizens are 20 points shy of our Premier League record of 95, set when we lifted the trophy for the first time in 2004/05, and Conte believes they could come close to a century of points should they maintain their form over the remaining 10 fixtures.

‘If they continue with this fire and this hunger, for sure they can achieve this result, because they are showing to be in fantastic physical condition, to play good football and to have great desire,’ he said.

‘After a good win against Arsenal to win the Carabao Cup, to show this desire and fire, it means you have a group of players with great determination to achieve this kind of result. It won’t be easy to reach, but they have the possibility because they are showing to be the best in this league.’

Conte also spoke about Ross Barkley, who has been out injured since the end of January, and his chances of being named in England’s World Cup squad.

‘With Ross, he had a really bad injury with Everton,’ he said. ‘When you have this type of bad injury you must have great passion – to try to work very well, but at the same time when you are arriving with a bad injury after a long period that you didn’t play, the risk to have little injuries is greater than another player.

‘But Ross is a good, young player and a really good guy, and now he needs to put all of himself to try to recover the time and show that he deserves a place to play at the World Cup.’