Monday 23 October 2017

Conte delighted Luiz is proving doubters wrong

David Luiz has impressed Antonio Conte
David Luiz has impressed Antonio Conte

Antonio Conte is delighted that David Luiz is proving his doubters wrong, but warned one mistake could see Chelsea's Premier League title prospects unravel.

Eyebrows were raised when Luiz returned to Chelsea on the final day of the summer transfer window, having been sold to Paris St Germain two years earlier for £50million.

But Luiz has been near-flawless as the central figure in Conte's three-man defence which has seen the Blues take a nine-point lead entering this weekend's fixtures with 16 wins in 18 games.

"He is showing his real value," Conte said. "I'm pleased with his performances.

"It's important for him, for Chelsea and for me.

"I like to repeat (to) all my players - you need a lot of time to be something important and you can have only one minute to disrupt all this.

"It's important to continue this way with great concentration, with great focus in every game.

"When you are a central defender and you play in the middle you must pay great attention, because you have to play football with great intelligence... to understand the moment to be aggressive and to cover the others."

It was Conte who raised the subject after earlier praising Luiz's willingness to play through pain for the team.

The pain lingers in his knee following a tackle from Sergio Aguero in December which saw the Manchester City striker sent off.

"He's a warrior," Conte said.

Conte will be aware that Luiz was criticised at times during his first spell for lapses in concentration.

There has been little evidence of similar issues this season.

But one exchange between Thibaut Courtois and the Brazil defender went unpunished by Alex Iwobi early on in Chelsea's 3-1 win over Arsenal last weekend as Luiz recovered to make a block. The goalkeeper was arguably more culpable.

Conte warned of the need to remain alert on Sunday against a Burnley side who have claimed 28 of their 29 points at their Turf Moor home.

He gauges the tension among his squad during the week. He knows sometimes he needs to lighten the mood and others he needs to get tough, particularly after a good win against a rival.

"I like to keep always the right tension in my players," he added.

"After a good win you can be relaxed and I try to avoid this.

"This is a part of improving your mentality, the winning mentality.

"When you have this type of game against Liverpool or Arsenal the tension is high. In those moments you must cut a bit of pressure.

"When the intensity is not high, I try to increase the intensity, to increase the tension and to warn about the danger of the game.

"'Pay attention because on Sunday we risk a lot if we have this concentration, this intensity, for example.

"It's important to be ready to fight. If we are a bit relaxed we risk to lose and that's a pity."

Conte uses his own playing experience with Juventus and Italy as a reference point, but declined to divulge his methods.

He gave his players time off after three matches in a week which concluded with the Arsenal win.

Some travelled. Courtois went to the United States to watch an NBA game and go to the Super Bowl.

Conte himself went to a Serie A fixture between Juventus and Inter Milan at the end of a day spent watching Premier League rivals.

"My wife, when I told her I'm going to watch Juventus and Inter, she wasn't happy," Conte added.

He is reluctant to talk about football with his family, but says his wife Elisabetta, who was not interested in the game prior to meeting Conte, can be a good sounding board.

He added: "It's important for me to have a good person to listen and tell me I am wrong for example. Not always 'you are right'."

Conte has done little wrong at Chelsea. Nor has Eden Hazard this season.

Conte on Friday refused to put a price on the 26-year-old Belgium playmaker, who was once valued at "£100million per leg" by Jose Mourinho and scored a fine solo goal against Arsenal.

"We don't want to sell him. He hasn't a price now," Conte said.

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