With only four days between Chelsea’s encounters with Barcelona at the Champions League and Leicester City in the FA Cup, there has been little time for any downgrades or upgrades on our injury situation. Thus manager Antonio Conte skipped the formalities of talking about the fitness of his players in today’s press conference, speaking instead of the upcoming FA Cup match as we look to move on from the defeat by the hands of Barça earlier this week.
“It was a pity to go out of the Champions League, especially after two good performances against Barcelona, but this is football, this is life.”
“Now we have to face another competition and we must have great confidence to trust in our strength and try to move on. It’s a great competition - the oldest competition in the world. Last season we did very well to reach the final at Wembley, and now we have this possibility to reach the semi-final again.”
“It won’t be easy. Leicester are a good team, a team who won the [Premier League] title two years ago. In their squad they have many talented players with good qualities. They want to fight a lot. In the game we played against them at home we suffered a lot because they put a lot of pressure on and they ran a lot.”
To make it past Leicester and advance to the FA Cup’s semifinals, our chances could rest on containing Leicester’s biggest threat in striker Jamie Vardy. Nevertheless Conte knows he is not the only player that can do damage to our defence, as his “special plan” for the match is his team putting on a good defensive effort against whoever is picked by Claude Puel to face the Blues at King Power Stadium this weekend.
“Special plans? Our special plan is to try to defend well. For sure we know about [Jamie] Vardy’s characteristics. He is a clever player. He is very good at attacking space and finding the right time to do. We must also pay great attention if they decide to play with [Kelechi] Iheanacho or [Shinji] Okazaki.”
-Antonio Conte; Source: Chelsea FC
But while the FA Cup is Chelsea’s last hope of lifting a trophy by the end of the season, there is also a top four spot in the Premier League that the Blues have to fight for. The club stands four points away from 4th place Liverpool and Conte says he will not prioritise one competition over the other as Chelsea need to fight for both of these objectives.
“We have to try to do both. To try to go to the next round and to reach the semifinal in the FA Cup. It won’t be easy.”
“[...] Then [we have to] do our best also in the league, to find a place in the Champions League. It won’t be easy.”
“Every trophy is important for us. We started the season to try to fight until the end for every competition.”
“In the Carabao Cup we reached the semifinal, in Champions League the last 16. This is the FA Cup quarterfinal. If we win we can play another semifinal at Wembley. We try to do our best in every competition. This must be our target.”
-Antonio Conte; Source: ESPN
The Russia World Cup approaches and one international break is taking place next week before the major event begins in June. Some of our players in good form such as France’s N’Golo Kanté and Brazil’s Willian earned call ups to their respective national teams, while others in less favourable situations in Spain’s Álvaro Morata and England’s Gary Cahill were out of the squads.
Although Conte himself was a national team manager before taking over Chelsea, he pays little to no mind to whether or not his players are getting calls to join their country’s squads. And it would not be much of a surprise if he preferred them to stay put as to avoid picking up injuries in their time away from the club.
“This question is for the coach of the national team, not for me. My only worry is that we try to have our players in the best form for Chelsea. Then the national team coach has to make the best decision for the country.”
-Antonio Conte; Source: Chelsea FC
There were also some words directed to Morata, who has yet to score a goal this year and seems on his way to lose a starting spot to Olivier Giroud.
Conte dodges question of whether Cahill & Morata are playing well enough to make World Cup. Asked about Morata failing to score in 2018, he replies: "Maybe he could score on Sunday." #cfc— Liam Twomey (@liam_twomey) March 16, 2018
Welp. Hard to disagree on this one!
Come on, Chelsea!