Chelsea will be travelling to Merseyside this weekend to face Everton at Goodison Park and keep the pressure on Spurs, who play afterwards, in the the North London Derby against Arsenal. Trips to Goodison are never easy and this is probably the toughest match left on the schedule for the Blues.
Ahead of Sunday’s clash, Antonio Conte talked at length over various topics in his pre-match press conference on Friday. Most of those were the normal fare of banal topics and questions we’ve gotten used to over the course of the past few months (good season, great concentration, finish strong, pay attention, etc, etc), but there were a few mildly interesting things to talk about as well.
To kick off things on a positive note, Conte was happy to reveal that the squad is once again fully healthy, with no injuries or illnesses or random acts of bile currently present.
Antonio Conte reports no new injury news. All the players are available and fit. #CFC— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) April 28, 2017
In less promising news, not only have Everton won eight league games in a row at home, they also boast the division’s top goal-scorer in Romelu Lukaku. Since the kid’s departure from Chelsea back in 2014, all he’s done is become the Toffees’ all-time leading goal-scorer in the Premier League. While constant rumors have existed of a potential reunion with Chelsea for almost as long, for now the focus is on trying to stop him and all the other dangerous players available to Everton manager Ronald Koeman.
"As I've said before, for me my players are the best in the world. I wouldn't change my players with any other players."
"I think that Lukaku is a really good player, he's scoring a lot of goals this season. You have to pay him great attention but it's always the same, we study the opponent and we try to find the best solution to stop them, about single players and about the team."
"Yes we must pay great attention to Lukaku, but also Everton's other players. They have a lot of good players with good technique."
-Antonio Conte; source: Sky Sports
A few months ago, such concerns would’ve been allayed by Chelsea’s defensive record. But the Blues have failed to keep a clean sheet in eleven straight Premier League games, stretching all the way back to the 2-0 win over Hull City in January. And while clean sheets are just one statistic, and such things can sometimes paint a false picture, Conte agrees that this is an important indicator that we must address for the final few weeks of the season. Always improve.
"I don’t like stats a lot, but it’s important to know. Sometimes the stats are not true, above all for possession. You can have good possession and then you lose the game. So some stats are not so important."
"But the stat about clean sheets is an important stat. It’s 11 games that we have not been able to keep a clean sheet. It’s important to improve, to work on the situations where we are conceding goals. I am not concerned about this, but at the same time we are working."
Just as in the midweek round of fixtures, Chelsea once again play first this weekend. After a recent run of games when it was seemingly always Spurs who got to go first and thus put the pressure on the Blues, now it’s our chance to ratchet up the stakes on Pochettino’s men who face their bitter rivals Arsenal.
That won’t make the Everton game any easier, and a loss could have the opposite effect, giving Spurs hope and motivating them to even better performances than they’ve been putting in as of late, but the fate of the title remains firmly in our hands.
"In this part of the season every game is very tough for many reasons. You have a lot of pressure, you know you have to win, when you have to play with this target it’s not simple. Not only for us, also for Tottenham."
"But we are ready. We have worked a lot to fight for the title and we want to reach this target with all our strength. We have to do our job with the right pressure, but at the same time enjoy this moment."
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC