The biggest test of the season so far comes tomorrow, as Chelsea face Manchester City at the Etihad in Saturday's early kick-off, in hopes of keeping the current winning streak alive while also staying atop the Premier League and putting a dent in City's own title chances. It won't be your run-of-the-mill league game, and boss Antonio Conte is certainly fully aware of that.
"I'm pleased with the attitude of all the players, those who are playing and those who have been on the bench or in the stands, there is a good atmosphere."
"Tomorrow it's a really tough game, a great test for us and our formation. We know it won't be easy, we face a really great team with great players and a good idea of football. We want to show we are working well and that we are growing. It's another step for us to show what has changed since the start of the season."
"For sure it's a big game. This season we've also played Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham and Man United. In this league every game is big because it's difficult, so tough. This is my first season in England and it's fantastic, I'm looking forward to it."
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
It will also be Conte's first encounter against Pep Guardiola, generally regarded as the best manager in football. There are plenty of similarities between the two coaches, from their playing careers to their beginnings as managers at their former teams, to now, shaking up the current tactical landscape a bit in their first season in England
"I've never faced Pep (as a manager). I have great respect for him. He likes to study football, find solutions and implement his ideas. It's not easy to transfer that but he's a fantastic manager and he's doing fantastic work with Man City. When you watch their team I recognise his idea of football."
"He found a good situation in Man City because there is the sporting director and another person who worked with him at Barcelona, he found a place where very quickly he could implement his idea of football."
"Every team has their own characteristics and ideas of football. All of Guardiola's teams like to have possession for many minutes and find penetration between the lines or one against one on the flanks. My idea is more straight, to go towards the goal with less possession, but there are a lot of ways to get a win."
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
And winning, as the song goes, is our aim.
Those aims have been successfully achieved for seven straight games, during which run, Conte has made exactly once lineup change, switching out the unavailable Willian (due to his bereavement leave) for the suddenly impressive Pedro. We don't anticipate any changes for this one once again, though Conte did hint at a couple slightly injury worries. We haven't had to deal with impactful injuries much at all this season, and that, combined with the reduced schedule and increased training time, has really created a great sense of cohesion and understanding among the starters.
Conte emphasises he has not been changing the side as those playing deserve to play. #CFC— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) 2 December 2016
One of the ever-presents in the lineup has been Diego Costa, who's also the joint-top scorer in the league (alongside City's Sergio Aguero). Costa is not only scoring and assisting at a great clip, he's also avoiding yellow cards. Having had to defend his striker regularly at the start of the season as referees decided to make an example of Costa for the new dissent rule, Conte has been able to praise Diego without reservation for the past several weeks. Friday was no exception.
"He is showing great respect and patience during these games. It’s fantastic for the club. It’s great to talk about him in a positive way and not a bad way. At the start of the season the only questions were about his patience and trying to change his behaviour. Now it’s important to continue in this way."
-Antonio Conte; Source: Metro
We'll need Diego to indeed continue in this way tomorrow. And everybody else as well.