Antonio Conte has said that it doesn’t matter which players get picked to start games for Chelsea, as long as the squad continues to stick to the principles that they have been working on since his arrival as head coach this summer.
The Italian was speaking to the press ahead of his side’s home game against the defending Premier League champions Leicester City this weekend. With John Terry having returned from injury for the match against the Foxes on Saturday it has left the manager with some difficult decisions to make. He said, “Tomorrow I have four central defenders and I have to take three. One must go on the bench.”
Chelsea switched to a three-at-the-back formation for their match against Hull before the international break, running out 2-0 winners at the KC Stadium. But Conte feels it is not the formation that matters so much as the ability to get the best out of the players he has available to him. He said, “We are finding the best solution to exact all the players’ talents. Against Hull City, we played a good game. Willian, Hazard and Costa played very well and they did what we want. We must continue in this way”.
The 46-year-old has been pleased with the way his side have been playing, matching up their defensive responsibilities with their desire to attack. He wants them to continue working hard in order to sure things up at the back, regardless of the formation he chooses to play. He said, “It’s right to have a team that is compact but with players that are very offensive and can create many offensive situations. It’s not important if we play with three or four at the back. It’s important to follow the principles we are working on. It was necessary to find a new solution because it’s not right a great team like Chelsea were conceding so many goals”.
Chelsea’s players will wear black armbands on Saturday in memory of their team-mate Willian’s mother, who passed away this week. Conte said, “For Willian we are very sad. We knew the problem with his mum. We are very sad, me, the players, the club. We are very close in this moment to our player. Our players are with him, and his family”.
Meanwhile N’Golo Kante is likely to line-up for Chelsea against his former club, having been an unused substitute when the two sides faced each other in the EFL Cup last month. Speaking of the French international his manager said, “He’s an important player. We are very pleased to have him with us. He’s a fantastic player. Good stamina, technique, personality. He has brought great will to fight. He’s a very humble man, a humble player. I like him and I like this type of player – that put the team before themselves”.
The Italian also had some words to say about the former Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri who will be in the opposition dugout for Saturday’s early kick-off. Ranieri manager Chelsea from 2000 until 2004 and steered the Foxes to an unlikely Premier League title win last season. Speaking of his compatriot Conte said, “Claudio is a very nice man, above all a good manager….a good mentor”.
Conte is also hoping that Diego Costa will be able to keep his cool in the match this weekend. The fiery Brazilian-born Spanish international is just one booking away from a suspension, having come close to being sent off several times already this season. The Chelsea boss said, “We know the situation. Diego knows the situation. It was the same before the Hull game. We must think to the present, and not to look forward. Tomorrow he must fight in the same way he did in the previous games. I hope he pays attention and doesn’t get another yellow”.