The Borneo Post (Sabah)

Conte lauds Willian as Chelsea set sights on Barcelona

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LONDON: Chelsea manager Antonio Conte praised the allround contributi­on of Willian after the in-form Brazilian helped halt a run of back-to-back league defeats ahead of next week’s showdown with Barcelona in Europe.

Willian’s deflected shot opened the scoring in Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace, and it was his clever dummy that created the second, an own goal by Martin Kelly.

He has scored five goals in five games, the best run of his Chelsea career, which is timely ahead of Thursday’s Champions League last 16, second leg match in Barcelona.

But Conte was also pleased by the forward’s hard work off the ball.

“You can see when a player is in great form, I’m the first to pick him in the starting 11,” the Italian said. “He’s playing in a fantastic way but, I want to underline, not only with the ball also without the ball. He’s working very hard and he’s helping the team.

“I think that he has shown great maturity at this point of his career. In my heart I hope to see him at this level, continuing these performanc­es. It’s very important to have a balance in the team because when you don’t have that balance anything can happen.”

Willian also had a shot blocked on the line by James Tomkins and a free-kick saved by Wayne Hennessey as Chelsea went for a third goal, eventually leaving themselves open to a late consolatio­n for Palace. Olivier Giroud might have had a hat-trick but is still waiting for his first Chelsea goal in the Premier League. -

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