Antonio Conte is not happy with scheduling of Chelsea v City
‘I’m very surprised to see that this game we have to play on Saturday, not on Sunday’
Chelsea’s Alvaro Morata celebrates scoring their first goal with manager Antonio Conte. Photograph: Paul Hanna/Reuters
Antonio Conte has expressed dismay at the decision to stage Chelsea’s much anticipated game against Manchester City on Saturday, claiming he will only be able to select his team “one or two hours before we play” as he gauges his squad’s recovery from the eye-catching if draining win at Atlético Madrid.
Chelsea became the first English team to win at the Spanish club courtesy of the substitute Michy Batshuayi’s stoppage-time goal, with the result strengthening the Premier League side’s position at the top of the fledgling Group C.
Yet, rather than basking in the success, Conte instead made clear his frustration at the scheduling of the visit of City, the early leaders, on Saturday teatime for the televised fixture and expressed disbelief that the option to play on Sunday had not been explored given next week is an international window.
“Now, for us, it’s important to rest and try and recover very well but we don’t have a lot of time,” he said. “Honestly, in this case we are a bit penalised and I think it’s very important before taking a decision like this to analyse the different situations of the teams.
“Don’t forget, Manchester City played yesterday at home [against Shakhtar Donetsk]. We played tonight, away. For sure, we will return to London around 4am. To have only one day to prepare for this type of game is not right. Above all because, now, it’s an international break. There aren’t other fixtures.
“Honestly, I’m very surprised to see that this game we have to play on Saturday, not on Sunday. I don’t understand why. Honestly, it’s very tough to know [who will have recovered in time]. For sure, after this type of performance … I want to wait. Don’t forget: Saturday is a big game. To play a big game is better because we can keep that concentration very high. But I want to wait and check.
“Maybe I’ll wait until the end, one or two hours before we play. I need to speak to my players to understand very well their physical condition. In this type of game you lose a lot of physical and mental energy. For this reason, I want to speak with everyone and then make the best decision.”
Conte heaped praise on his players’ performance at the Wanda Metropolitano where Álvaro Morata, who limped away from the arena with a slight knock, scored his seventh goal in as many games for his new club, Eden Hazard was outstanding and Batshuayi secured the late win the visitors deserved.
“They deserved to play this type of game, but above all to play in this way: with personality,” Conte said. “You can win, but if you win only by defending and go on the counterattack, I think the result doesn’t bring the right satisfaction. Instead, to come here and show we are ready to play, and that we want to understand where we are, that’s very important. The answer tonight was very positive.”