Conte ex­pects se­lec­tion gam­ble to pay off

New Straits Times - - Sport -

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

REUTERS pic

Eden Haz­ard drib­bles the ball past Qarabag de­fend­ers dur­ing their Cham­pi­ons League clash at Stam­ford Bridge.

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