Sunday 22 July 2018

Sleepless nights for Antonio Conte as he prepares for team to suffer

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte. Photo: PA
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte. Photo: PA

Miguel Delaney

Antonio Conte said his Chelsea team will have to play a "perfect game" to beat Barcelona, and that his players should be "prepared to suffer".

The Italian admitted that he struggled to sleep in the build-up to tonight's first leg at Stamford Bridge, but that was because he was so "excited" about the challenge of facing such a side.

While Chelsea have endured a more inconsistent season defending their Premier League title, Barca are seven points clear in the league and unbeaten in that competition and the Champions League, having also reached the final of the Copa del Rey.

Conte said his side should be excited about that, though, as it also a chance to show their level and "ambition". "I think that, for sure, we have to play a perfect game against Barcelona if we want to win," Conte said.

"I repeat, on paper, you start these two games with one favourite and this is Barcelona. I think that they earned the right to be the favourites this season for what they have been doing for many years in football in the world.

Massive

"For sure, we are talking about a massive game. A big challenge for us. We have to play against a fantastic team, one of the best in the world. But this type of game we must be excited. Excited to play this type of game against Barcelona.

"We are talking about a fantastic team with fantastic players. We are talking about (Leo) Messi, (Luis) Suarez and (Andres) Iniesta… about the whole team. We must pay great attention but we must have ambition. We must have ambition to try and play our football."

Conte admitted that preparing for the match had caused a few sleepless nights, as he weighed up every tactical option.

"I think that, these days after the game in the FA Cup, I must be honest... it was a bit difficult to sleep, to sleep well. But not a lot.

"When you have to play this type of game, you have to prepare. You have to prepare everything. You have to prepare big things, but the smaller details too. They can move a result a lot of the time. We have an idea. We have a plan in our heads. I think that, in this specific moment, it's very important to pick the players who are at the top of their form to try and win."

To do so, they will have to subdue Messi. Conte smiled when asked exactly how this was possible.

"This is a good question. We are talking about the best player in the world. Messi has the capacity to solve the situation and create a chance when you are not seeing the chance to score. But not only to Messi... the whole team of Barcelona. We have to work very hard. We must be prepared to suffer."

© Independent News Service

  • Chelsea v Barcelona, live, TV3, 7.45

Independent News Service

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport