Swansea City turned a few heads last summer when they acquired former Spanish international striker Fernando Llorente from Sevilla. The 31-year-old was deemed surplus to requirements at the La Liga side and his initial struggles with Swans showed just why that may have been the case. However, since scoring just 1 goal in his first 9 Premier League games, Llorente has 7 in 13 since, including a brace at Anfield last month.
It was during January that Llorente also entered the Chelsea consciousness via the rumor mill, as Conte had supposedly identified his former player as an excellent backup option for Costa. But that move never came to fruition, and all Swansea have done since is turn their season around. Thanks in part to Llorente’s play, the only Welsh team currently in the Premier League are set to remain there for another season.
Conte of course isn’t surprised, having worked together with the big man for one season at Juventus three years ago.
“For sure, I have great admiration for him and we must pay great attention tomorrow...”
“I know him very well because Fernando played with me at Juventus. We won together - he is a really good player. I have great admiration for him. As a player but also a man, because he is a great man. It is a great pleasure to see him tomorrow. I wish for him the best, but [only] after the game!”
-Antonio Conte; source: Goal
For Llorente, the chance to test himself against his old coach is a major motivation.
"He's a big character with a lot of experience at a high level and, put it this way, he's very motivated for this weekend. It's human nature that he will want to perform well against Chelsea on Saturday.”
"I asked him if he wanted a rest on Saturday and you should've seen his face. 'You look tired', I said, and straight away he was saying 'no, no, I'm not'."
-Paul Clement; source: Goal
It seems that the biggest challenge for Chelsea’s defense these days is the deep cross (usually from the opposition’s right flank) towards the far post, exploiting Azpilicueta’s relative lack of height and Victor Moses’s relative lack of innate defensive positioning. Swansea have probably realized this as well, and given the threat that Llorente poses in the air, will undoubtedly look to isolate him 1-v-1 against some of Chelsea’s smaller players.
As Conte says, we must pay great attention and concentrate and fight and work hard for these three points.