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Antonio Conte pleased to take pressure off Chelsea before Atletico Madrid clash

Willian scored twice and won a pair of penalties as Chelsea thrashed 10-man Qarabag 4-0 in Baku to guarantee Antonio Conte’s side a top-two finish in UEFA Champions League Group C.

football Updated: Nov 23, 2017 09:21 IST
Antonio Conte,Chelsea,Atletico Madrid
Chelsea's manager Antonio Conte celebrates after their win over Qarabag at the UEFA Champions League.(REUTERS)

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte is satisfied to have the ability to rotate his squad in the final round of Champions League group-stage fixtures after the team’sprogression to the last 16 was secured with a 4-0 win at Qarabag.

The Premier League champions eased to victory against their Azerbaijani hosts, who were reduced to 10 men in the first half, to make qualification from Group C a certainty ahead of the finale against Atletico Madrid next month.

Conte made no secret of his displeasure at having to make the long journey east and then face Liverpool in a high-profile Premier League clash as early as Saturday.

READ | UEFA Champions League: Barcelona, Chelsea enter last 16 as Manchester United lose

But he can rest safe in the knowledge that similar fixture congestion around the Atletico game will not cause as much of a headache, given that match takes place three days after a trip to Newcastle United and four days before a meeting with neighbours West Ham.

“For sure we have to work during the flight to prepare for Liverpool. With my staff we started also before, not to arrive at the last moment,” Conte told a media conference.

“To have only one day to rest and prepare is not simple or easy. It is not right. Now I think after tonight we must be pleased that we reached our first target to go through to the next round. To avoid [the] Atletico game [being] decisive for us.

“It will be a good chance to have another rotation with the players. It is very positive for us in a game that I knew very well it wouldn’t be easy. Atletico drew twice [against Qarabag] and Roma struggled, it means we faced a really good team.”

Reiterating his complaints over the short turnaround, Conte added: “Now we have to travel five hours and a half and then rest one day and then prepare the game against Liverpool, another big game like Manchester City. I don’t want to make an excuse, but this is the reality.

“To hear the complaints of the coach, someone has to help us. The press and the TV to underline the situation, because it is strange.

“The group is showing great character, our answers are positive, but I think I am very happy to be the coach of these players because they show a great commitment and fight, despite difficulties. We are a really good squad.”

First Published: Nov 23, 2017 09:21 IST