Late on Sunday evening, the Guardian and the Daily Mail published some quite intriguing quotes made by Antonio Conte in regard to Chelsea's vital return fixture in Barcelona coming up on Wednesday. In his words, the boss reinforced the idea that he will be involving his squad in crucial tactical discussions prior to the game.
“Sometimes it is important also to share the responsibility with the players that you have to prepare for this type of game.”
“In every game I have to decide the starting XI and not the players, because the players are the players and the manager is the manager. But sometimes, before this type of game, it is more important to involve totally the players and then to listen. This tie seems close and, for this reason, I think that we have to try the best plan for the game against Barcelona.”
Indeed, these are some very intriguing quotes made by Conte which might be implying that Chelsea's approach against Barcelona might be different to the one employed in the first leg.
While the actual act of letting players voice their opinions or similar isn't something uncommon ahead of big games, especially against tricky opponents for who current players were once employed (such as Pedro), these quotes are nevertheless a welcome sight. The Italian thereby underlines that he trusts his players and that there is no rift between both parties. Of course, it remains to be seen whether any actual suggestions made by Hazard et al will be ultimately resorted to.
Conte also went on to comment on the possibility of Chelsea imitating the approach taken up by his former team Juventus who were thus able to eliminate North London rivals (and serial bottlers) Tottenham. In short, he rejected this idea and any sort of comparisons between the Italian side's game plan and Chelsea's prospective one for the lack of experience in our squad compared to the Bianconeri.
“With [Juventus], don’t forget you are talking about a team with many players with great experience, many who have won or played in a final of the Champions League many times. We don’t have this same experience. It is something you have to build over years.”
“For sure, Juventus showed great resilience, they suffered a lot and, in the right minute, they killed Tottenham. My team has not got great experience but players who need that experience: people like [Andreas] Christensen, [Tiemoué] Bakayoko are young, or we have players playing for the first time or the second time in the Champions League. So we have to work as a team and try to be ready, to suffer in the moment, but also know we have the chance to go to score.”
-Antonio Conte; Source: The Guardian
All well and good, if you ask me, as it's no secret that some of our younger players still need to grow. And playing against the likes of Barcelona will undoubtedly contribute a great deal to their development, since they will provide invaluable experience.
The good, old Daily Mail chose a less subtle approach and went with a more CRISIS-oriented version of the story, primarily focusing on their belief that these quotes imply Conte harbouring absolutely no hope of beating Barcelona whatsoever. They even went as far as to omit the other more positive quotes about including players into tactical discussions. Then again, I would have been more surprised had they not dropped important information and had gone with a less sensationalist approach for once.
Never change, British tabloids! Never change...
P.S.: by that, I mean you should most certainly change.