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“Great character” and “good heart” beat Leicester, says Antonio Conte

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The Italian boss praised Chelsea’s effort to beat Leicester today at King Power Stadium.

Leicester City v Chelsea - The Emirates FA Cup Quarter Final Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

As you’d expect, Antonio Conte was generally upbeat after Chelsea knocked Leicester City out of the FA Cup and advanced to the semi-finals, where they’ll play the kindest opponent left in Southampton.

This may not be the best group of players Chelsea has ever assembled — Conte hasn’t exactly made a secret of his dissatisfaction with the club’s import-export business over the summer — but today they showed that despite a series of demoralising losses and energy-sapping matches, they still have fight left in them.

“We must be pleased. I saw a good performance and great character from my team.”

”After the game in the Champions League, when we spent a lot of energy, they showed good heart to beat Leicester.”

Leicester City v Chelsea - The Emirates FA Cup Quarter Final Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

No player showed more heart than N’Golo Kanté. We might have to assemble a search party to find what he can’t do since not only did he defend and carry the ball up the pitch under pressure, he also delivered the best cross of the match right onto Pedro’s noggin.

And not only Kanté but the rest of Conte’s men knew coming in that this would be another tough one, with Leicester riding an eleven game unbeaten streak at King Power and having fought Chelsea to a standstill in London.

“It was a tough game but we knew this. The last game at home [a 0-0 draw in January] we suffered a lot against Leicester.”

-Antonio Conte; source: BBC

Both the manager and the away support were delighted to see one particularly embattled new player finally score for the first time in fourteen appearances, dating back to Boxing Day against Bournemouth.

Leicester City v Chelsea - The Emirates FA Cup Quarter Final Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Chelsea have been struggling to score of late, with just four goals in their previous five matches, so they badly need a confident Álvaro Morata to start banging in some goals again as they try to claw their way back into the top four.

Another player they need to come good is Pedro, who knocked in 13 last season but had been stuck on just 6 goals this term. Today’s goal — a header, of all things, from that gorgeous Kanté cross — gave Conte a chance to give a brief history lesson on the diminutive Spaniard he brought on in the 92nd minute.

Speaking of substitutions, Conte explained why he removed Bakayoko at half-time, as well as Willian and Christensen in the second half.

So now a tired Chelsea squad head back to London and a two-week international break. When they come back they’ll have an epic match waiting for them at Stamford Bridge: a meeting with North London rivals and fourth-placed Premier League team Tottenham Hotspur. Like the Leicester encounter, it will be the late game on Sunday and the television spotlight will be shining brightly.

But one player wasn’t in a huge hurry to get back on the bus and eventually to duty with Spain. Defender César Azpilicueta showed once again why he’s the Captain of our side.

Conte thanked the travelling fans in the press conference; Azpi did it on the pitch.