Conte happy as second XI put up first-class performance

Chelsea striker Michy Batshuayi scoring their fifth goal during their 6-0 Champions League rout of Qarabag. Blues manager Antonio Conte was pleased that his second-string players got playing time and delivered the win.
Chelsea striker Michy Batshuayi scoring their fifth goal during their 6-0 Champions League rout of Qarabag. Blues manager Antonio Conte was pleased that his second-string players got playing time and delivered the win.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Antonio Conte believes his decision to rest several of his Chelsea regulars for their 6-0 Champions League demolition of Qarabag will be rewarded when his side face Arsenal on Sunday.

The Italian manager left out David Luiz, Antonio Rudiger, Victor Moses and Alvaro Morata for Tuesday's rout 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 off-season ankle surgery, Conte is confident Chelsea will go into their London derby in good condition to claim three valuable points.

"It was a perfect start for us," he said. "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's selection gamble was never in danger of backfiring as goals from Pedro Rodriguez, Davide Zappacosta, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Cesar Azpilicueta and Michy Batshuayi and an own goal by Maksim Medvedev ensured Chelsea made a strong start to their Group C 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 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. We have to develop these players, to try and create a good competition between them. It's very important."

Despite the heavy defeat, Qarabag coach Gurban Gurbanov insisted it was still a proud day for his club, saying: "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."

Also in the same group, a virtuoso display by goalkeeper Alisson Becker helped Roma hold Atletico Madrid to a 0-0 home draw.

The Brazilian made numerous saves, notably in the second half when Atletico were pushing hard, to frustrate Diego Simeone's side.

Meanwhile, Arsenal go into their Europa League campaign today against Germany's Cologne, and goalkeeper Petr Cech said the side must make clear if they want to win the tournament or set themselves different priorities for the season.

Cech, who won the competition with Chelsea in 2013, told London's Evening Standard. "At Chelsea, we were really disappointed to have been knocked out of the (Champions League).

"But we decided that for the first time and the last time, hopefully, we play in the Europa League, so we want to win.

"Either you take it seriously and you go to win it and you give yourself the chance to do it, or you give yourself different priorities and see how it goes."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2017, with the headline 'Conte happy as second XI put up first-class performance'. Print Edition | Subscribe