Conte hopes tur­bu­lence in the past

Chelsea boss says air scare will not be used as an ex­cuse for Liver­pool clash

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - FRONT PAGE -

Liver­pool v Chelsea An­field, to­day, 5.30pm Live on BT Sport 1 An­to­nio Conte and his Chelsea play­ers may have been “scared” and “afraid” dur­ing a tur­bu­lent flight to Lon­don, but he is of­fer­ing no “ex­cuses” ahead of this week­end’s clash with Liver­pool.

Chelsea’s re­turn from their Cham­pi­ons League win at Qarabag was com­pli­cated as the air­craft landed at the sec­ond at­tempt – the first was aborted due to strong winds at Gatwick – and Conte and his play­ers fi­nally got to their beds at 6am.

But the Ital­ian is re­fus­ing to al­low any­thing to dis­tract from the task at hand this week­end. “It was a prob­lem to land. In these cir­cum­stances you feel a bit afraid, a bit scared,” he said. “To get to your house at 6am is not sim­ple. To have only one day to pre­pare for a big game, es­pe­cially to have only one day to rest, is not right. “But at the same time we must be fo­cused on the game, a big game against Liver­pool. Don’t find ex­cuses.”

Dan­ger­ous Salah

Chelsea head into the game for a re­union with a “very dan­ger­ous” Mo­hamed Salah, who joined the Lon­don club in Jan­uary 2014, hav­ing im­pressed play­ing against them for Swiss side Basel. But the Egypt for­ward was soon loaned out to Fiorentina and then Roma, mak­ing the lat­ter move per­ma­nent in 2016 be­fore join­ing Liver­pool last sum­mer.

Conte de­clined to dis­cuss the rea­sons for Salah’s un­suc­cess­ful Chelsea spell, be­cause it was be­fore his time at the club. But the Ital­ian did praise the Premier League’s top scorer.

“He was very young and I think now he has de­vel­oped a lot,” Conte said. “Salah is a good player and is very dan­ger­ous. He’s a tech­ni­cal player, but at the same time is very fast, very strong, very good in a one-on-one.

“Also he’s very good at fin­ish­ing. We must pay great at­ten­tion, but not only to Salah, also to [Sa­dio] Mane, [Roberto] Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and [Daniel] Stur­ridge. “They have a good coach [Jür­gen Klopp], they have a good iden­tity. Great or­gan­i­sa­tion, es­pe­cially of­fen­sively. They are very dan­ger­ous.”

‘My daugh­ter killed me’

The Blues won 4-0 against Qarabag to qual­ify from Cham­pi­ons League Group C on Wed­nes­day night, re­turn­ing to Lon­don fol­low­ing the 2,500-mile flight from Baku, Azer­bai­jan and those com­pli­ca­tions.

Conte has con­tin­u­ally be­moaned the fix­ture sched­ul­ing, which sees his side go to An­field fol­low­ing lim­ited re­cov­ery and one day’s prepa­ra­tion, 24 hours less than that af­forded to Liver­pool, who drew at Sevilla on Tues­day.

De­spite the tired­ness, Conte ap­peared fresh-faced af­ter shav­ing off the beard he grew dur­ing the in­ter­na­tional break, hav­ing val­ued the opin­ions of his daugh­ter Vit­to­ria over those of his wife Elis­a­betta, who had en­cour­aged him to grow it. “I wanted to try a new look, but yes­ter­day my daugh­ter killed me. She said to me, ‘Daddy, your look is older with the beard’. My daugh­ter is more im­por­tant than my wife.”

His side go in search of a fifth straight league win, but trail lead­ers Manch­ester City by nine points en­ter­ing this week­end’s fix­tures. Vic­tor Moses, a key com­po­nent of Chelsea’s ti­tle win last sea­son, is avail­able af­ter a six-week ab­sence with a ham­string in­jury. Moses, who spent the 2013-14 sea­son on loan at Liver­pool, is ex­pected to be among the sub­sti­tutes along­side David Luiz and Wil­lian. An­dreas Chris­tensen and Al­varo Mo­rata are likely to start.

Conte has ad­justed his favoured 3-4-3 for­ma­tion fol­low­ing some in­con­sis­tent dis­plays, field­ing an ad­di­tional mid­fielder. He said: “We are try­ing to find dif­fer­ent so­lu­tions com­pared to last sea­son.”

Jür­gen Klopp is well-ac­cus­tomed to the fluc­tu­at­ing emo­tions around Liver­pool and knew what was com­ing the mo­ment Guido Pizarro equalised in the 93rd minute of their Cham­pi­ons League may­hem on Tues­day. Call­ing for per­spec­tive once again. Liver­pool re­main top of their Cham­pi­ons League group and can draw level on points with the cham­pi­ons, Chelsea, in the Premier League to­day with a fourth suc­ces­sive home win.

Klopp in­sists he trusts this Liver­pool team im­plic­itly. He senses that be­lief is not uni­ver­sal.

Liver­pool’s set­backs have been rare this sea­son yet their dra­matic na­ture has strength­ened the im­age of a reck­less team. A 5-0 de­feat at Manch­ester City, af­ter Sa­dio Mané was sent off at 1-0; a Carabao Cup loss at Le­ices­ter City hav­ing squan­dered a pro­ces­sion of chances; a calami­tous 4-1 re­verse at Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur; and now the sec­ond-half col­lapse in An­dalu­sia.

Klopp main­tains that only the per­for­mance at Wem­b­ley and when Liver­pool “stopped play­ing” at Es­ta­dio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán were gen­uine causes for con­cern. Two per­for­mances out of 20, in other words.

Con­sis­tency chal­lenge

And yet the man­ager of a team that have con­ceded once at home in the Premier League this sea­son – the low­est in the divi­sion along with Manch­ester United – ad­mits con­sis­tency re­mains “a job” and “a chal­lenge” for Liver­pool. Klopp’s team have ex­hil­a­rated more of­ten than floun­dered this sea­son. The is­sue of trust, he ar­gues, lies with those who ex­pect per­fec­tion. Liver­pool’s man­ager is not one of them.

“Yes, of course I trust this team,” he said be­fore Chelsea’s visit. “It de­pends on what you ex­pect. Do I ex­pect per­fec­tion and then I can trust? No. Then I could not trust, that would be true. Against Sevilla if we win 3-2 or 4-2, which was pos­si­ble eas­ily, it is ex­actly the same story. I can­not ig­nore it.

“The mo­ment we con­ceded the third goal then ev­ery­thing changed for ev­ery­body, but not for me. If you don’t close the game these things can hap­pen.

“We made mis­takes but they made mis­takes. They made a lot of un­be­liev­able mis­takes, by the way. I can trust this team.

“We could have done bet­ter in a lot of games but that doesn’t min­imise my trust, that’s the thing you have to ac­cept. We try and try and try. In this mo­ment we can’t change any­thing.

“I think it was the best line-up we could have cho­sen, some­body maybe thought we could have played Emre [Can] from the be­gin­ning, but there was not a lot of things with the line we should have changed. We were 3-0 up, we scored two goals from set-pieces, fan­tas­tic, ex­actly the same, scored the third, played a fan­tas­tic pass for the fourth – that’s a re­ally good per­for­mance. But then you don’t close the game and in an at­mos­phere like this then things like this can be pos­si­ble.”

Moreno mis­takes

Klopp’s trust ex­tended to Al­berto Moreno fol­low­ing an­other costly dis­play by the left-back against his for­mer club. The Liver­pool man­ager claims he was “100% re­spon­si­ble” for Moreno’s mis­takes hav­ing started the de­fender who was treated “like a fam­ily mem­ber in Sevilla” and lost “1, 2, 3 per cent con­cen­tra­tion” as a con­se­quence.

“I told him I still trust him 100%,” added Klopp. “The thing I try to re­ally teach the play­ers is that the only thing that is im­por­tant is what I think for their fu­ture.

“We have to carry on. The prob­lem is the whole world watches our mis­takes.

“A lot of peo­ple say things about it, a lot of for­mer play­ers are say­ing things about it. That’s our life, it will never change. We don’t have to think about it.”

Jordan Hen­der­son also came in for scru­tiny in Seville. Klopp de­liv­ered a fierce de­fence of the Liver­pool mid­fielder. “If you al­ways big up what peo­ple are say­ing on so­cial me­dia, then we talk about it as if it is the truth. Even if they are pun­dits it doesn’t mean it makes sense,” said Klopp.

“In this game, I would love to see one of the big pun­dits on the pitch and be­ing the per­son who changed the whole game. That re­ally is f***ing leg­end. It never hap­pens.

“If we score the fourth goal then ev­ery­thing is fine and Jordan is fine. Could he change the game on the pitch? No. Was he too deep in a few po­si­tions? Yes. Does that make me think he can­not play the No6 [role]? No, of course not. Can he im­prove? Yes. But did he im­prove al­ready a lot? Wow, 100%. He is a proper cap­tain now. “He wasn’t when I first came in but only be­cause he didn’t know how to do it be­cause no­body had to think about how to be cap­tain at Liver­pool be­cause they had one for 20 years [in Steven Ger­rard],” Klopp con­tin­ued.

“He was not bet­ter than the oth­ers [against Sevilla], un­for­tu­nately, but he was not worse. How you can say he needs to be bet­ter be­cause he has the cap­taincy? I will never get this kind of talk.”

Jür­gen Klopp: “The prob­lem is the whole world watches our mis­takes”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.