Conte expects selection gamble to pay off
LONDON: Antonio Conte believes his decision to rest several Chelsea stars for their Champions League demolition of Qarabag will be rewarded when the Blues face Arsenal on Sunday.
Conte left out David Luiz, Antonio Rudiger, Victor Moses and Alvaro Morata for Tuesday’s 6-0 thumping of the Azerbaijan minnows at Stamford Bridge.
With those key players kept fresh and Eden Hazard coming off the bench for only his second appearance since close-season ankle surgery, Conte is confident Chelsea will go into their London derby in good condition to claim three valuable points.
“To play the first game of the Champions League, then to win with a good result, to score many goals, to finish the game with a clean sheet.
“I saw a lot of positive things. Now we have to rest and get ready for a tough game against a strong Arsenal team,” Conte said.
Conte’s selection gamble was never in danger of backfiring as goals from Pedro, Davide Zappacosta, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Cesar Azpilicueta and Michy Batshuayi ensured Chelsea made a strong start to their group stage campaign.
Giving his understudies a chance for valuable game time was an added bonus for Conte, who said: “I wanted to give a chance to Michy and also to Andreas Christensen.
“To play in the Champions League means the coach trusts you.
“Last season we played with only 13 players, to do that again would be crazy.
Conte was also encouraged by Zappacosta’s first start following his deadline day move from Torino.
The Italy right-back capped a lung-bursting run with a cross that flew in for Chelsea’s second goal.
“He played a really good game. For sure he knew very well my style of football and for this reason I decided to start with him,” Conte said.
Despite Hazard’s solid showing as a second half substitute, Conte admitted it might be too soon for the Belgian playmaker to start against Arsenal.
“It’s early to speak about this. “We must give him the possibility to recover very well, to be totally fit,” Conte said.
It was a chastening first taste of the Champions League group stage for Qarabag, but Gurban Gurbanov, boss of the Azerbaijan minnows, insisted it was still a proud day for his club.
“We made lots of errors. I accept we must play better but I’m still satisfied with the performance given the quality of the opponent.
“We are happy we are part of this tournament,” he said. AFP
Eden Hazard dribbles the ball past Qarabag defenders during their Champions League clash at Stamford Bridge.