Antonio Conte wary of 'very angry' Liverpool as Chelsea aim to inflict fourth straight Anfield defeat
Beware the wounded animal. That was the message sent by Antonio Conte as his Chelsea juggernaut rolls into Anfield on Tuesday night to face a Liverpool side reeling from three home defeats in a row.
It was Liverpool who inflicted Conte’s first defeat as Chelsea manager in September, but the Italian’s side is now an almost unrecognisable team from back then, and with Arsenal coming to Stamford Bridge just four days later, it would not be an exaggeration to say that Chelsea could have the title in the bag by this time next week.
“Liverpool is a very tough game for us because their focus will be very high,” said Conte, whose side strolled to their 14th victory in 15 games when they swept aside Brentford in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Saturday.
How that contrasts with Liverpool, who have fallen to Swansea, Southampton and Wolves at Anfield in the space of a week.
“When you play at Anfield it’s very difficult for teams,” Conte added. “After three defeats you are very angry, and we must know this. We have to play our football with good intensity and then we will see what happens.”
Intensity was barely required on Saturday, as Brentford never posed a threat to the Premier League leaders, as goals from Willian, Pedro, Branislav Ivanovic and Michy Batshuayi sealed a result that, in truth, could have been considerably worse for Brentford.
The visitors had started the game without striker Scott Hogan, who was named among the substitutes. Hogan is the subject of continued interest from West Ham United, who have already seen three bids the 24-year-old rejected as Brentford hold out for £15m. A deal is expected to be agreed before the transfer window closes on Tuesday.
“When you are talking about the numbers in the Premier League in terms of wages I think it is going to turn any young man’s head,” said manager Dean Smith. “But he has been good, he’s trained every day, he’s been OK around the training ground.
“If he did go, I would shake his hand because I can understand him harbouring ambitions to go and play in the Premier League with the sort of money that is on offer. I would wish him well.”