The last international break made history not only in terms of the Italian national team failing to make a World Cup in 60 years, but also in Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte doing something he’s never done before in his 48 years. At the request of his wife, he’s growing a beard! And you didn’t think he could get any cooler!
Conte, sporting heavy stubble, confirms he is growing a beard for the first time at the request of his wife!— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) November 17, 2017
(Ed. note: or perhaps Conte’s growing a “playoff beard” since Chelsea have won three in a row?)
During the international break, Chelsea’s youngsters also took center stage, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ethan Ampadu starring for England and Wales, respectively. Loftus-Cheek was just one of several current or former Chelsea youngsters in the England squad, with the common thread of none of them actually playing for Chelsea uniting them as well. But both RLC and Tammy Abraham are gaining valuable playing time while away on loan and that’s the most important thing for their development at the moment.
“We are talking about two young players, really good players. I am sure Ruben and Tammy will be the future for Chelsea. Now it’s right for them to play regularly.”
“I read Ruben’s interview and he said his path is perfect and to play regularly this season is very important for his development, and then to come back to play with Chelsea with greater maturity.”
“It’s the same path as for Christensen. He played for two years on loan and now he is playing regularly for Chelsea.”
But now it’s time to focus on Chelsea themselves, who return to the site of last year’s title-clinching victory this weekend. Those celebrations live on fondly in memory, but now is not really the time to reminisce.
“It was a fantastic moment for me, the players, the club and the fans. It was great. I remember this moment very well and I am proud for what we did last season.”
“Now we have to look at the present. This will be a really tough game. Last season, both games were very difficult for us, at home and away. We want to continue winning in the league, but we know it will be a very difficult for us.”
“We have been working very well. We are ready to play this game. We have also to prepare for three important games in eight days. After the West Bromwich game, we have to play to go through in the Champions League in Azerbaijan, and then after two days we play Liverpool away. We must be ready.”
While Chelsea have won three in a row in the Premier League, current league leaders Manchester City have won fifteen (15!) in a row in all competitions. Can anyone stop them? Victor Moses, who’s still injured, wasn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet and neither is Conte.
“The reality is that Manchester City are now a real danger for every team, not only in England but in the world.”
“They are playing very well and it is very difficult to think you can catch them, but the other top teams in England have to try to fight until the end. It won’t be easy, but football is strange. It’s very difficult to predict who will win the title.”
“If you want to try to stay there, and fight for the title, you have to keep winning, and not drop points.”
-Antonio Conte; Source: Chelsea FC
As long as Chelsea stay in the top four and within somewhat of a touching distance, there’s always a chance. Football is strange, indeed, and things can often change at a moment’s notice. Until then, we just have to keep concentrating on ourselves, as the well-worn sports cliche goes.