10 Mar Conte calls for ‘great resilience’ against Barcelona – after narrow win over Palace
Antonio Conte has called on Chelsea to show resilience in Barcelona and says he will consult his players on tactics for Wednesday’s Champions League clash at the Nou Camp.
The Blues head coach was speaking after watching his side cling on unconvincingly to a 2-1 victory over relegation-threatened Crystal Palace. It was just their fifth win from 16 games in 2018.
With the Champions League last-16 tie finely posed at 1-1 after the first leg, Conte knows his players must improve to have any hope of progressing at the expense of Lionel Messi and company.
“We have to show great resilience. The game will be totally different,” Conte said.
“We are playing against one of the best teams in the world.
“We have to try to have the same focus, the same attention as the first leg against Barcelona. We played a really great game. It was almost the perfect game, if we didn’t concede the goal at the last.
“It won’t be easy. At the same time we have to try the right solution to play this game.
“The best way sometimes is to speak with the players and to try to find together the right plan to face this game.”
Eden Hazard had spoken at his frustration at playing as a ‘false nine’ in last Sunday’s lacklustre loss at Manchester City.
He also played up front against Barca, but was deployed in his more familiar role roaming from the left flank here.
He showed flashes of brilliance, but it was Willian who had a more influential role on the result, scoring the first after 25 minutes.
Martin Kelly’s own goal following Davide Zappacosta’s shot saw Chelsea cruising before half-time, but Patrick van Aanholt’s goal against his former club set up a nervy conclusion.
Conte had fielded a recognised striker in Olivier Giroud, who spurned a number of chances to score the goal that would have killed off Palace.
“He was a bit unlucky today, but at the same time we must be pleased for his commitment,” Conte said of Giroud.
“Eden played a good game, also had chances to score. We didn’t take a lot of chances we created today. But the commitment of all my players was good.”
After four losses in the previous five Premier League games, Conte was relieved with a victory which comes ahead of a critical week of the season, with the trip to Barcelona followed by the FA Cup quarter-final at Leicester.
Chelsea are now two points behind fourth-placed Tottenham, who have a game in-hand.
Conte said: “This win was very important. If we want to fight for a place in the Champions League, now it will be very important not to drop points.”
Palace boss Roy Hodgson barely disguised his criticism of striker Christian Benteke, who was taken off at half-time as the return of Wilfried Zaha transformed the visitors.
Hodgson said: “The level of commitment wasn’t good enough in the first half.
“I don’t think we had all 11 doing that in the first half. We did have all 11 doing that in the second half.”
Zaha was back following a knee injury, but Hodgson did not regret leaving the forward out of the starting XI.
He did rue the late strike from Alexander Sorloth which was ruled out for a foul in the build-up.
He said: “I saw it from the touchline. The people who tell me we should feel aggrieved studied it on the video. And they tell me there wasn’t too much wrong with it.”