Friday 14 December 2018

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte keeping striking options open for Barcelona clash

Belgium playmaker Hazard expressed frustration at playing as a ‘false nine’ at Manchester City.

Eden Hazard is one of the options to play up front when Chelsea go to Barcelona
Eden Hazard is one of the options to play up front when Chelsea go to Barcelona

By Matt McGeehan, Press Association Sport

Antonio Conte has told his striking options to be ready to suffer when Chelsea go to Barcelona on Wednesday.

The Blues must score at the Nou Camp to progress at the expense of Lionel Messi and company after last month’s 1-1 first leg.

Eden Hazard was deployed as a ‘false nine’ in that game, but subsequently complained about the position following the lacklustre loss at Manchester City.

Yet Conte could still call upon the Belgium playmaker to fulfil that role on Wednesday, or opt for either Olivier Giroud or Alvaro Morata as a more conventional striker.

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Olivier Giroud and Eden Hazard are two of Chelsea's striking options for the trip to Barcelona

“It’s important to understand that we must be prepared to suffer, if we play with Hazard as number nine, or if we play with Giroud or Morata as number nine and Hazard as number 10,” Conte told Chelsea TV.

Conte says he will consult his players over the tactics for a pivotal contest and hopes for a repeat performance of the one at Stamford Bridge, albeit without a Barca goal.

“We need to repeat the game we played at Stamford Bridge and to try to exploit the chances to score,” the Italian added.

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Defender Gary Cahill went off injured on a famous night for Chelsea at the Nou Camp almost six years ago

Chelsea beat Barcelona en route to winning the 2012 Champions League.

A remarkable performance at the Nou Camp saw the Blues draw 2-2 and earn a 3-2 aggregate victory to advance to the final of Europe’s premier club competition almost six years ago.

Defender Gary Cahill, who was injured in that game, said: “I didn’t spend too long out there last time with my hamstring that I pulled.

“But the result was fantastic and the rest is history. Let’s go there with confidence we can put in a good show and do the best we possibly can to get through to the next round.

“It’s poised nicely. We’ve got one game to try to go through against world-class opposition. We know it’s going to be tough, but we’re ready for the challenge.”

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Gary Cahill was pleased with three points for Chelsea against Crystal Palace

Chelsea travel after Saturday’s 2-1 win over relegation-threatened Crystal Palace, which followed four losses in five Premier League games.

Chelsea’s next Premier League game is against Tottenham, their rivals for a top-four place and Champions League qualification.

“We got ourselves in a sticky situation, in terms of previous results, and we need to get ourselves out of it,” Cahill added.

“That meant a win. It was all about the three points from the word go, however we got them.

“We could’ve clearly had three, four or five, even, with the chances we created. That’s positive and ultimately we won the game. That’s all that matters.”

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Alexander Sorloth had a strike ruled out for Crystal Palace at Chelsea

Palace were 2-0 down at half-time after Willian’s strike and a Martin Kelly own goal.

Defender James Tomkins, who cleared a Giroud effort off the line, bemoaned a strike from Alexander Sorloth which was disallowed late on by referee Anthony Taylor and came before Patrick van Aanholt netted what proved merely a consolation against his former club.

Tomkins said on cpfc.co.uk: “We were unlucky with the decision to disallow Alex’s goal.

“For me, not a chance it was a foul. The referee’s made that decision without a reaction from the Chelsea players, so it’s disappointing, but we have to go again.”

Palace are now without a win in seven games.

Tomkins added: “You can look at it and say we were unlucky, but it’s another defeat.

“We’ve taken the big teams close, right to the wire, but it’s still disappointing because a loss is a loss, whether you lose 5-0 or 1-0, we need points now.”

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