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Conte wants top spot in Champions League group but not because of knockout round seeding

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Chelsea v Newcastle United - Premier League Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Thanks to Atlético Madrid’s 2-0 win over Roma and Chelsea’s 4-0 trouncing of Qarabag, Chelsea regained control of Group C in the Champions League two weeks ago. A win tonight gives thus gives Chelsea not only a top seed, but a slightly more advantageous draw for the Last 16, including a slightly more advantageous second leg at home instead of away.

However, first place in the group does not guarantee an easy draw — if there is even such a thing as an easy draw in the Last 16 — as Chelsea could still be drawn against giants such as Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Juventus. But, first place would most likely avoid PSG and Barcelona, and more importantly, continue the team’s momentum.

It is the latter aspect that concerns Conte first and foremost, in fact.

“I think this game is important because we are playing against Atlético Madrid and they have shown in the past to be an important team in this tournament. Now there is a risk they will be eliminated, but we have to play a good game, to improve our confidence, and because we want to reach the first position in our group.”

“But if you arrive first, you could then get teams like Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Juventus. It doesn’t change a lot if you arrive first or second. The most important thing is to reach the next stage, but for our mission and our confidence, it would be right to win and arrive first.”

-Antonio Conte; Source: Chelsea FC

Since the 3-0 loss in Rome, a defeat that Conte’s called regrettable, Chelsea have gone seven games unbeaten, including six wins. With the Premier League fixture full of winnable games through the end of the calendar year (despite the lack of recovery periods), keeping that momentum going will be of utmost importance indeed, keeping Chelsea on the right path — a new word, “path” in the Conte vocabulary that’s been getting regular use when talking about Chelsea and Manchester City as well.

“The game will be open because Atletico Madrid will try to win the game, and it’ll be the same for us. The only difference is that the final result for them is very important, and for us we have already qualified, but at the same time a great team has to play every game to try to win.

“The most important thing was to qualify for the next round, because one of Atletico or Roma will go out of this tournament. We must be pleased with our path in this tournament, even if I maybe regret one game against Roma away.”

-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC

Work work work, win win win.

Forza!