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Conte: “I think this win was very important”

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Impressive display, could have had more against Palace

Chelsea v Crystal Palace - Premier League Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

For anyone who wondered if the team had quit, Chelsea had a spirited answer.

For anyone who wondered who should play striker, Olivier Giroud made a convincing case.

For anyone who wondered whether Willian could keep up his brilliant form, the Brazilian dispelled all doubts.

Willian is on fire. He scored his fifth in the last five games and thirteenth in all competitions. Including the two against Hull City in the FA Cup, the wunder-Brazilian has netted in four of his last five matches.

And yet in his post-match comments, Conte was at pains once again to praise both sides of Willian’s game, just as he was in Manchester last Sunday.

Despite playing the full ninety minutes, Willian seems to be a lock to play at Camp Nou on Wednesday.

Manchester United v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

And given Conte’s insistence on the importance of defensive play, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him field the same lineup that he did against Barcelona at Stamford Bridge, as Pedro also puts in a shift without the ball.

Which would leave today’s man-of-the-match contender, Olivier Giroud, on the bench despite a strong performance and desperate bad luck to not score.

A miracle clearance by James Thompkins, running back to his goal line and taking the ball off of the bottom of his boot, denied the Frenchman in the first half. In the second, he hit the post.

Giroud also provided the much-discussed focal point that Chelsea’s attack has seemed to lack at times. Alvaro Morata may have cost more (and has yet to control his emotions, getting yet another booking, his eighth) but he has a fight on his hands to win the job as Chelsea’s first-choice striker.

Eden Hazard also had an excellent match, although he seemed more cautious about unleashing a shot, especially compared to Willian, who fired whenever he could.

In fact, with Palace playing narrowly and defensively in the first half, Chelsea peppered them with shots and closed the game with 27 attempts, 11 on target.

Chelsea v Crystal Palace - Premier League Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Which is a clear indication that, despite all the doom and gloom over the last week, the players haven’t quit on Conte and are still fighting for top-four.

With today’s win Chelsea closed the gap two four points on Liverpool, who lost to Manchester United. Tottenham are now just two ahead but have yet to play, traveling to Bournemouth on Sunday.

With top-four, FA Cup and Champions League still in play, Conte sees the Palace result as a positive sign.

One final piece of housekeeping to take care of... Antonio Rüdiger was notably absent from the team sheet.

He has apparently won the starting left centre-back job from Gary Cahill but he wasn’t in the First XI, nor on the bench.

Not to worry, apparently.

Which should mean he’ll be available for Chelsea’s next must-win match (they’re all must-win at this point,) in Barcelona on Wednesday for the second leg of our Champions League tie.

Glory awaits.