Strike pairing an option for Conte

Chelsea's Victor Moses (left) celebrating with Pedro after scoring their second goal in the EPL on Thursday. Chelsea defeated Burnley 2-1.
Chelsea's Victor Moses (left) celebrating with Pedro after scoring their second goal in the EPL on Thursday. Chelsea defeated Burnley 2-1.PHOTO: REUTERS

Morata and Giroud may start in FA Cup semi-final after impressing in Burnley win

LONDON • Chelsea manager Antonio Conte praised the performances of his strike pairing Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud in Thursday's 2-1 win at Burnley and said the combination could be an option for tomorrow's FA Cup semi-final against Southampton.

Conte started with Belgian Eden Hazard on the bench, likely with tomorrow's match in mind and, despite the unusual sight of two target men up front, the move paid off.

"We played with great spirit, we had a great desire and will to fight," Conte told reporters.

"It is not simple to play against Burnley because if you give them space, then they are ready to put in the long ball and be dangerous with the second ball.

"Our strikers, Giroud and Morata, did a great job. They played a fantastic game with a great sacrifice without the ball and they put great pressure on the Burnley defence and forced them to play long from their own half which is less dangerous.

"(It was good) to see Giroud and Morata play this way, a good combination, a good link between them but also the way they press without the ball. This could be an option for Sunday or for the future."

Both Morata and January signing Giroud have spent plenty of time on the bench this season but they caused Burnley defenders James Tarkowski and Kevin Long plenty of trouble.

IDEAL PARTNERSHIP

(It was good) to see Giroud and Morata play this way, a good combination, a good link between them but also the way they press without the ball.

ANTONIO CONTE , Chelsea manager, praising Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata.

Morata did, however, miss a clear chance when he was put through one-on-one against Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope and shot wide.

But Conte said his decision to substitute the Spaniard was simply about getting Hazard on the field for the latter stages.

Although FA Cup opponents Southampton are struggling in the relegation zone, Conte said it would be wrong to see the game at Wembley as a formality, particularly after his side had to fight back to beat the Saints 3-2 last Saturday.

"I hear that we are already in the final. But if you remember, and I do very well, that five days ago we were 2-0 down against Southampton and we played a disaster against them," said the Italian, whose team finished runners-up in the FA Cup last season. "We must pay attention and play with the right desire and will to show that we want to play another final in the FA Cup."

Southampton held Leicester City to a 0-0 draw on Thursday to remain in 18th position, four points adrift of safety with four matches remaining.

With their survival a priority, Saints boss Mark Hughes indicated that he will make changes to his starting XI tomorrow with the must-win league clash against Bournemouth next weekend in mind.

"Our circumstances are a little bit different to Chelsea," he told a press conference yesterday.

"We have other players that can come in and can freshen up our group and we will see where that takes us and, if we see something that can help us against Bournemouth, we can take that forward too.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 21, 2018, with the headline 'Strike pairing an option for Conte'. Print Edition | Subscribe