As usual, Antonio Conte gave his press conference on Friday afternoon prior to the big clash against Manchester United on Sunday. As usual, most of the questions were boring, banal, redundant, or plain stupid, especially the insistence on trying to draw something controversial from Conte on Paul Pogba’s recent plight under Jose Mourinho.
But actual important things first; as expected, Bakayoko, David Luiz, and Ross Barkley are still out and while the latter was supposedly pictured in training yesterday, there was no estimated recovery time added by Conte for any of the three players.
As far as any early team news, Conte seemed to hint that Olivier Giroud might get another start, after both he and Morata started only on the bench against Barcelona.
Conte on Giroud starting: "Olivier is working very well with us, I am pleased because it seems that he stays with us for a long time, not only two weeks. For the game, he is in contention, we will see what is my final decision for my starting XI" #CFC MUFC— Nizaar Kinsella (@NizaarKinsella) February 23, 2018
“Balance” meant three smalls on Tuesday, but United pose a very different threat than Barcelona as far as Conte’s concerned.
“When you want to try to get three points you mustn’t lose your balance. We have to play with great balance, and intelligence to understand the way we have to attack. Man United are masters on the counter attack with players like Lukaku, Lingard, Martial and Mata.
“For us it’s important to play a good game and try to get three points. If it’s Hazard, Willian, Pedro, Giroud or even Courtois who scores, it’s the same. We must be ready to play as a team and help each other.”
-Antonio Conte; source; Chelsea FC
Different though they might be from Barcelona, United will pose a palpable threat despite the recent upheaval surrounding Paul Pogba’s form and Ander Herrera’s injury and whatever other discord Mourinho has been sowing lately.
As someone who’s worked extensively with Pogba, Conte was asked multiple questions about how to get the best out of him, whether he will start or not, and why he was dropped recently, among others. Conte sidestepped those thinly veiled attempts at trying to generate controversial comments — “Conte says Mourinho should do this and that” — and gave a few standard platitudes regarding the match itself.
Conte on United for Sunday: "This is not a simple game. Especially when you go away to play at Old Trafford, it is not simple to play. After a game where we played well vs Barcelona. This test is important for us to test our approach in a difficult atmosphere." #CFC #MUFC— Nizaar Kinsella (@NizaarKinsella) February 23, 2018
Also sidestepped was the issue of the brewing feud between the two head coaches (by both of them in the end). But we were promised a royal rumble!!
There were quite a few other questions, such as “who has the strongest squad?” and whether winning is as important on Sunday as drawing (yes, these were actually asked).
Conte is of course thinking bigger. But also smaller, just one game at a time.
“I consider it a big achievement if you are able to win something at the end of a season. If you are happy about winning one game against a team it means you don’t have a great mentality.
“A great achievement for us will be if we win something and take the target we started the season with in our minds.
“It’s a massive game. For sure, if we win we are happy but there will be 10 games to go. We have to enjoy the moment if we win but understand the season is very long.”
-Antonio Conte; source; Chelsea FC