Conte happy to stick with own tac­tics

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - SOCCER - SAM DEAN

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

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