Conte happy to stick with own tactics
ANTONIO CONTE has insisted that having the right balance between defence and attack is still “the best way” to win trophies in modern football, despite the trend for spectacular attacking football that has brought success for the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool.
Chelsea today face a Liverpool team who last week bludgeoned their way past AS Roma in the Champions League semi-final with their all-action approach under Jurgen Klopp.
And the open nature of the other Champions League semi-final, between Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, provided more evidence of the shift towards more expansive football. Conte, however, resisted the suggestion that the demands on teams to play attractive football had changed the way the game is played.
“I think there are many styles of football,” he said. “There is not one style that can make you a winner. Last season, City and Liverpool didn’t win and I think their style was always the same.
“It’s important, in my experience as a player and as a coach, to have in every moment the right balance, offensively and defensively. This is the best way, in my opinion, to win something.”
Conte will hope to take advantage of any tiredness in Liverpool’s legs this weekend as Chelsea look to continue their late assault on the Premier League’s top four. Chelsea, in fifth, are six points behind third-placed Liverpool, with a game in hand.
He will be reliant on the likes of Eden Hazard and Willian to outshine Liverpool’s attacking players — in particular, former Chelsea player Mohamed Salah, who has scored 43 goals this season. “Everyone wants to put on the pitch the best technical players, but then you must have players very good to run, to win the ball, to fight to win the ball, good tackling, good at defending,” Conte said. “Football is not simple. You must be good in both phases.”
Jurgen Klopp need look only along the touchline at Conte today to see how a muddled transfer strategy can force a manager’s good work to unravel.
Win or lose against Real Madrid in the Champions League final, Klopp’s second full campaign in charge of Liverpool has largely been a success, with all his new signings from the past 12 months proving money well spent. Salah has taken the headlines, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Andy Robertson and Virgil van Dijk have all played major roles during the Reds’ season.
Chelsea, meanwhile, have failed to build on winning the Premier League last term, with Conte not afraid of airing his frustrations at the club’s failure to acquire his top targets.
Instead, Chelsea now find themselves in a fight to merely qualify for next season’s Champions League, and anything less than a win against Liverpool today would all but ensure they can no longer catch their visitors from Merseyside.
With that in mind, Klopp is not about to rest on his laurels when it comes to adding more new faces to his already talented roster. “We have to strengthen the squad,” he said. “Finding players that will improve the squad 200 per cent will be difficult, but we have to make the squad bigger. We want a couple of players, but are only looking for good ones. The players we bring in, we will all be 100 per cent convinced about.”
A creative midfielder is high on Klopp’s shopping list as he looks for a permanent replacement for Philippe Coutinho following the Brazilian’s move to Barcelona in January. Liverpool have previously shown an interest in Monaco’s Thomas Lemar and could move again for the France international, while Naby Keita has already agreed to join the club from RB Leipzig in a deal worth in excess of £50m.
Chelsea v Liverpool, Sky Sports, 4.30