Wednesday 23 January 2019

Conte expecting raucous reception in Rome

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte. Photo: Reuters
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte. Photo: Reuters

Ian Winrow

Antonio Conte has told his Chelsea side to prepare for an intimidating atmosphere at Roma's Stadio Olimpico tomorrow and admits he does not know whether there will be any repeat of the racial abuse that was directed at Antonio Rudiger when the teams first met in the Champions League two weeks ago.

The Serie A club were charged by UEFA following allegations of racist chants by visiting supporters during the 3-3 draw at Stamford Bridge, when Rudiger appeared as a late substitute, with the matter due to be dealt with by European football's governing body on November 16.

The Chelsea head coach said Rudiger should be welcomed by home supporters on his return to his former club, but acknowledged he was unsure whether the German - who spoke out about the problem of racism in Italian football before his move - would again be the target of abuse.

"I don't know," said Conte when asked if the defender was likely to suffer a similar ordeal again. "Rudiger played for Roma for many years and he deserves to have claps. But Roma's fans are very passionate - during the game you feel this."

Rudiger says he is looking forward to his return to the Eternal City and anticipated the possibility before the draw for the group stage of the competition was made.

"I spoke to my parents (after the group draw) and I already knew and my parents even told me that you will get Roma," he said.

"I was happy and I am happy to go to Rome, to go there and play against my old team because I have a big respect. I had two wonderful years there with ups and downs with injuries.

"They were standing always behind me; the players, the team, the board and the fans."

Conte's side will resume their European challenge having stabilised their Premier League campaign, with Saturday's 1-0 win at Bournemouth coming courtesy of Eden Hazard's excellent 51st-minute finish.

A nine-point gap remains between the defending champions and leaders Manchester City, while Bournemouth remain in the bottom three.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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