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Conte proud of his players even if none of them were as unstoppable as Messi

Barca finished, Chelsea didn’t.

FC Barcelona v Chelsea FC - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Barcelona were clinical, Chelsea were not.

Messi had three shots, he scored on two. Chelsea hit the woodwork twice and despite looking dangerous, never converted on an excellent amount of possession (45%) and attacking play (14 shots, 3 on target.)

In his post-match press conference, Conte says that’s exactly what he saw too.

Messi was Messi.

But Chelsea had their chances.

They just didn’t take them.

With a Champions League place yet to play for as well as the FA Cup, no manager would rake his team over the coals after a game like that. He needs to keep their confidence up.

And yet you have the think that when Conte praises their effort, he means it.

Thibaut Courtois had a bit of a horror show and we’re covering that in a separate story.

But we have to face the fact that, even if he had stopped everything, Chelsea might still be out tonight because they couldn’t score.

That’s despite a magnificent game from N’Golo Kante, who clearly established that he belongs among the very best.

One incident might have changed the story of the game, if not the outcome.

Marcos Alonso appeared to have been pulled down or tripped in the penalty area in the second half.

Referee Damir Skomina wasn’t interested.

Conte thinks he should have been.

So, a disappointed manager and his troops are heading back to London, and from there on to Leicester City in the FA Cup on the weekend.

With rumors still swirling about his future, Conte was asked in the tunnel interview which sideline he’d be gesticulating wildly from next season.

The reporter had to ask, totally fair question. But nobody thinks Conte was going to give him a serious answer. We got what you’d expect.

Besides, there’s more work, discipline and perhaps even suffering ahead for the players. Conte left them with this positive thought:

On to Leicester and a chance for redemption in the FA Cup.

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