Aug 11, 2017
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Press Conference Analysis: Chelsea’s Antonio Conte reveals new injury concern, admires Everton and praises signings

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Antonio Conte has hit the headlines of late with his clear declarations that the squad need more signings and he was in fine form once again at Friday’s press conference ahead of Chelsea’s season opening game against Burnley, as recorded by the club website. However, ahead of the Saturday afternoon game he revealed the latest injury concern as he said:

“Pedro is not available because he is suffering with an injury from the Arsenal game and he wasn’t able to recover, it’s a knock on his ankle.”

The Spaniard won’t be the only regular out of action either, as Victor Moses will be unavailable as he serves a suspension from his sending off in the FA Cup final. Conte hinted that the suspension could mean that Antonio Rudiger could be given a first start since joining from Roma. That would likely move Cesar Azpilicueta to wing-back, as Conte said:

“Because we miss Moses for one game it could be an opportunity for Rudiger to start. I’ve been impressed so far, he’s a good player. He’s strong physically, he has a good personality and great technique.”

Conte also had praise for another major signing in Alvaro Morata. The Spaniard has come in for criticism after his penalty miss in the shoot-out at Wembley for the Community Shield last weekend, but the Italian boss believes that Morata is improving with each session. That kind of confidence boost could be key to getting the former Real Madrid man scoring once he is playing on a regular basis having built up his fitness. Conte explained:

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“It’s normal for the players that when they start to work with me, they need time to adapt to our style. Alvaro is working well and has improved a lot over the last 10 days in terms of his physical condition. He is starting to understand what I want from him during the game but for sure he needs time to adapt. For me, the striker has a really important role and it’s important for them to understand what positions I want them to take up. This role is more difficult to adapt to than others. We have been working very well and I must be pleased with the commitment of my players. It’s a pleasure for me to see this every single day.”

That kind of praise was echoed with relation to the whole squad. Whilst Conte has made it clear that further additions are required, he also values boosting the morale of the players he does have available to him. The squad are working hard to meet their managers’ demands and Conte reacted by saying:

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“Honestly, I’m pleased because we are working very well with the team and this group of players. Their commitment is incredible, even better than last season and I’m very happy because these players are working so hard. We are trying to improve.”

The Italian seemed less sure of what to expect in the upcoming season. Discussing his team’s title defence in 2017/18, Conte seemed aware that other teams will up their game when they come up against the reigning champions. He insisted that his focus was purely on his own side though as he said:

“I don’t know if this season will be more difficult than last season. For sure, we are champions and we have to face every game in the right way. The other teams will try to put 120 per cent in against us so we have to pay great attention in every game, have the right approach and play with the right intensity. I think when you start a new season it’s very important to think about ourselves and not others. To assess the other teams is not important for us. We know very well in England there are six top teams ready to fight for the title, that’s normal, and I think this season that will happen.”

The former Juventus boss could be tempted away from talking about his own team to praise one other side though as he praised Everton. In an unexpected move, Conte may have been once again angling for more signings as Ronald Koeman has invested heavily in his squad this summer, or alternatively may have been kicking off the mind games early before the two sides come face to face later this month. Conte said:

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“I think Everton is a really good team with a strong squad. They have (Ronald) Koeman who is a good coach and they are trying to take another step to try to fight for the title and Champions League. I like this because to have many teams doing that increases the level of the league. The level is already high and to improve it is okay.”

Chelsea will be expected to finish above sides like Everton this season, and they will start the campaign with a game which will be less challenging as they face Burnley.

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Sam is a Southend United fan and student based in the South-West. He has previously worked for various publications, including FourFourTwo magazine and ITV. Sam also has an extensive knowledge of Spanish football and has previously lived and worked in Spain. Find Sam on Twitter at @samleveridge.

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