Chelsea didn't enjoy the same kind of dominance last weekend as the previous few matchdays, but despite Middlesbrough's resistance, the Blues still came up with three points and a clean sheet, extending the unbeaten run to six Premier League victories without a single goal conceded.
Next up is the highly anticipated derby between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge, with our North London rivals looking to end their 26-year and 29-game streak of failure. The last time Chelsea lost at home to Spurs was on February 10, 1990, with goals from David Howells and Gary Lineker for Spurs unable to be matched by just the single strike from midfielder John Bumstead.
While this will be Antonio Conte's first derby against Spurs, the boss is well aware of the magnitude of the occasion and even more keenly aware of the challenge that Tottenham will pose.
"It's important to think of the present. Tomorrow will be very tough against a strong opponent. Tottenham has a great manager, talented players, very young, and I think they are improving. We have to pay great attention."
"I am pushing my players to be focused, but I think they are ready. Tomorrow it's important to play good football to win the game. You have to put your passion in the right way."
-Antonio Conte; Source: Express
Conte: 'Tottenham can create great difficulty for any team in this league, and can fight until the end to win the title.'— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) 25 November 2016
Conte: 'The last game was a bad result for Tottenham but tomorrow is another one and this is a special derby. It will be a great game.'— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) 25 November 2016
With regards to injuries, Conte won't be able to call on veterans John Terry and Mikel John Obi, not that either were likely to start. Mikel hasn't played all season, while Terry's only started one of our last 10 games in all competitions (and made a substitute appearance in one more).
"For tomorrow, John Terry and John Mikel Obi are not available. John has a problem with his glute and Mikel has a muscular problem. [Terry’s absence] will be maybe two or three weeks. I don’t know, but I think this."
"It’s important for John to recover from his injury and start good training sessions. It is a pity, because he recovered very well from the last injury and now he needs to start again."
-Antonio Conte; source: West London Sport
Terry, alongside several other first-team players like Cesc Fàbregas and Michy Batshuayi, as well as the recovering Kurt Zouma played in Monday's U23 game. Conte, who was in attendance in the chilly conditions, liked the intensity and commitment he saw from his players, despite the less than glamorous occasion.
Conte says he saw great attitude and commitment from the senior players in Monday's Under-23 match against Southampton.— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) 25 November 2016
Zouma's individual review was a bit less glowing.
Conte on Kurt Zouma: 'He's working with us, now... it's of fundamental importance to find good form and get the idea of our football.'— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) 25 November 2016
Recent reports in the English media claimed that Willian might be the subject of a £25 million bid from José Mourinho's current club Manchester United, as the player has lost his place in the Chelsea starting eleven to former Barcelona man Pedro. Conte, as he tends to answers all such questions, says he's still counting on the Brazilian and that "Willy" is an important player for Chelsea.
Conte says Willian has been unlucky in recent weeks, but is an important player for the Blues and he counts on him a lot.— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) 25 November 2016
Another Chelsea player featuring in the rumour mill lately is Victor Moses, with Catalan newspaper SPORT claiming that Barcelona are scouting him ahead of a potential transfer. For Conte, it's important for the 25-year-old to stay focused on the present, regardless of what the future may bring.
"About Victor, it is important to be focused on the present — focused game by game. Now we are doing very well. I like to think my players focus on the present and not on the future — not so long-term."
"We have just started this league and after a period of two bad defeats we have won six games in a row and it is important now to continue this."
"It is important to be focused and think of the present, not look to the future."
-Antonio Conte; source: West London Sport
At the moment, Chelsea are top of the Premier League with 28 points from 12 matches played, including seven clean sheets, but Conte won't rule out adjustments in the January transfer window, some a consequence of our success (lack of opportunities for the likes of Mikel, for example), some perhaps with a view towards squad depth (left wing-back?).
Conte says he is very happy with the current squad of players. In January, 'we will see'.— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) 25 November 2016
Conte: 'After the change in system we found more balance. It's important we continue to work. I see the players are very happy.'— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) 25 November 2016
The next two games could prove crucial in Chelsea's season, but beating Spurs tends to carry importance beyond just the three points. Forza!