Conte prepares for Reds clash on plane

A comfortable 4-0 Group C victory against Qarabag guaranteed Chelsea's involvement in the competition in the new year.
A comfortable 4-0 Group C victory against Qarabag guaranteed Chelsea's involvement in the competition in the new year.PHOTO: REUTERS

BAKU (Azerbaijan) • Antonio Conte was expecting to endure a sleepless night despite Chelsea sealing their entry into the Champions League last 16, with the manager spending the 51/2-hour return flight preparing for the Premier League trip to Liverpool tomorrow.

A comfortable 4-0 Group C victory against Qarabag on Wednesday, aided by the hosts being reduced to 10 men early on, guaranteed Chelsea's involvement in the competition in the new year.

Yet, with his squad able to fit in only one full training session this morning, before the game at Anfield, Conte and his coaching staff used the overnight flight to Gatwick to fine-tune their plans.

They had watched the Reds' 3-3 draw at Sevilla on Tuesday in their hotel in Azerbaijan.

"We have to work during the flight to prepare for the game against Liverpool," said Conte.

"To have only one day to rest and prepare for such a big game is not easy. It's not right.

"The league is very tough. There are six top teams who try to fight for the title. To create, for the second time in only 11/2 months, problems for one team is not right.

"Someone has to help us to underline this strange situation."

He could at least point to an improved performance as cause for optimism, with Willian scoring twice and winning two penalties, albeit against depleted opposition.

"This group is showing great character," he said, basking in the contrast with the fallout from his previous European away game, a 3-0 thrashing at Roma.

"From the start, we faced a lot of problems this season.

"Despite this, our answer was almost always positive.

"For sure, the second half against Roma was bad. But I'm very happy to be the coach of these players, because they show me every day great commitment, great will, great desire to fight despite a lot of difficulties sometimes.

"We are a really good squad. There is a great compactness between us that will be very important for the present and future."

First-half goals from Eden Hazard's penalty and Willian put Chelsea in control.

Cesc Fabregas scored their second penalty before Willian netted again to knock Qarabag out of the competition.

Chelsea, third in the league and nine points adrift of leaders Manchester City, have won two and drawn three of their last five league games at Anfield.

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2017, with the headline 'Conte prepares for Reds clash on plane'. Print Edition | Subscribe