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Antonio Conte and Willian debate their hopes for Chelsea’s upcoming clash versus Barcelona

Aiming for perfection.

Chelsea Training and Press Conference Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

The big debate going into Wednesday’s showdown at Camp Nou is what formation Chelsea will use. Will they play a traditional striker? Or will they once again put Eden Hazard at centre-forward, as they did at Stamford Bridge and against Manchester City, despite his discomfort with it?

Antonio Conte is an old hand at pre-match press conferences and didn’t tip his hand on Tuesday. But Willian, the player representative at the presser, may not have been quite as cryptic.

If Chelsea do “exactly the same job”, does that mean they’ll also use exactly the same formation? Maybe. To be fair to Willian, he might just be repeating the mantra that his boss has implanted in all the players.

After all, Conte himself used the same lines he has before, about needing to play a perfect game, about how they almost did that before conceding at Stamford Bridge in the first leg, and that the team must be willing to suffer through long spells without the ball.

“There may be times that we suffer, but we have to stay compact and when you have the ball you must have the belief in your head and heart that you can score.”

“We have to stay in the game, but it won’t be easy. If we want to go through to the next round we must invest in the game for every moment of it.”

-Antonio Conte; Source: New York Times

Conte didn’t sugarcoat that Chelsea are at a disadvantage, having conceded an away goal at the Bridge.

The gaffer has legitimate concerns about his squad’s relative inexperience at playing huge Champions League matches. If you recall, only Gary Cahill remains from the legendary 2012 outfit, the last Chelsea team to play at Camp Nou, and he may be on the bench.

As for the rest, it will be a completely new experience. Conte wants them to see it as a positive, because that’s how coaches coach.

Willian says he’s watched the 2012 Champions League semi-final that sent Chelsea through to the final against Bayern Munich. To his credit, he’s more interested is making new history, not dwelling on the old stuff — exactly the kind of attitude Conte is hoping to get not only from the Brazilian, but also from the rest of his squad.

When asked to compare Chelsea’s mercurial best player to Andres Iniesta, who’s a doubt with a hamstring injury, the boss issued what sounds very much like a challenge.

The players had a kick-around at Camp Nou to get a feel for the historic stadium after Tuesday’s presser. But surely this is nothing compared to what will come to them in game time, with close to 100,000 noisy people packed in there.

Barcelona is ready for Chelsea.

Are Chelsea ready for Barcelona?

Antonio Conte, a man who says he doesn’t sleep well when he’s worried about the team, claims he got his rest this time. Dare we hope that it’s a good omen?

Work. Suffer. Embrace the challenge.

And then, victory.

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