Conte: Heads on
News Tue 13 Mar 2018
Antonio Conte says we will have to play a patient game if we are to progress to the last eight of the Champions League on Wednesday.
Speaking in the depths of Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium immediately after landing in Spain, Conte admitted we are likely to spend long periods without the ball tomorrow night, as we did so impressively at Stamford Bridge three weeks ago, when we came so close to emerging with a one-goal advantage from the first leg.
‘Barcelona try to dominate the game, have a lot of possession and try to get players between the lines and go straight towards the goal. We must pay great attention, be compact and suffer,’ the Italian said.
‘Without the ball, you suffer. You have to defend well. When you have the ball, I repeat, we must know very well which is the way to go, to try to score and create chances, in the same way we did at Stamford Bridge.’
The 1-1 draw on 20 February saw one of our finest displays of the season, tactically disciplined yet frightening and fast on the counter, Lionel Messi’s late equaliser to cancel out Willian’s opener a bitter pill to swallow.
‘In the first leg we played a really good game, almost a perfect game,’ said Conte. ‘When you play against Barcelona, a team I consider one of the best in the world, if you want to have a hope to win the game you have to play a perfect game. In the first leg, we did this and when we made a mistake, we paid a lot for it.
‘The result gives a greater advantage to Barcelona but at the same time we know very well their philosophy, they want to try to play their football tomorrow, try to score and win the game. We have to try to do our best and we must have the game with great concentration to stay with our heads on the pitch in every moment of the game.
‘1-1 means you have to score, you have to win if you go to the next round, or score two goals and draw 2-2. As I said before, we have to stay in the game. We know the difficulty we face tomorrow, but if we want to go to the next round we must stay in every moment of the game.’
There is, Conte says, an excitement in the camp ahead of the second leg, with many of his squad having not played at the Camp Nou previously. Toni Rudiger is also available having sat out the weekend win against Crystal Palace, and trained with his team-mates this evening.
‘It is a fantastic stadium with a big pitch,’ Conte said. ‘I think every single player [who has] to play this type of game against Barcelona, must be excited. A lot of my players never played in this stadium, this is the first time, and we want to try to do our best.
‘For sure, we have to make a great game if we want to have a chance to go to the next round. We are playing against Barcelona and I consider them one of the best teams in the world. But as we know well, we are never sure with football. Like the first leg, we want to try to play our football and try in every moment we have the ball, try to create chances and problems for Barcelona.’
Conte was asked about Alvaro Morata, formerly of course a Real Madrid player and therefore hungry to be involved tomorrow night.
‘I saw great will, great focus, great will to fight for a place,’ Conte said of his striker. ‘For Morata, this is the first full season in his career. In the past with Real Madrid, with Juventus, he was on the bench, the first substitute, on if the striker was injured.
‘For this reason, I think we must have great patience. We are talking about an important striker and he is a really important prospect for Chelsea, for the present and the future. He will be in contention for tomorrow’s game.’
It seems Conte is keen to give nothing away ahead of the big night. He will be urging the same of his players on Wednesday.