Chelsea hope to put turbulence behind them for Liverpool clash
Air scare on return from Champions League fixture will not be used as excuse, says Conte
Antonio Conte: refusing to allow anything to distract from the task at hand this weekend. Photograph: Tony O’Brien/Reuters
Chelsea’s return from their Champions League win at Qarabag was complicated as the aircraft landed at the second attempt – the first was aborted due to strong winds at Gatwick – and Conte and his players finally got to their beds at 6am.
But the Italian is refusing to allow anything to distract from the task at hand this weekend. “It was a problem to land. In these circumstances you feel a bit afraid, a bit scared,” he said. “To get to your house at 6am is not simple. To have only one day to prepare for a big game, especially to have only one day to rest, is not right. “But at the same time we must be focused on the game, a big game against Liverpool. Don’t find excuses.”
Chelsea head into the game for a reunion with a “very dangerous” Mohamed Salah, who joined the London club in January 2014, having impressed playing against them for Swiss side Basel. But the Egypt forward was soon loaned out to Fiorentina and then Roma, making the latter move permanent in 2016 before joining Liverpool last summer.
Conte declined to discuss the reasons for Salah’s unsuccessful Chelsea spell, because it was before his time at the club. But the Italian did praise the Premier League’s top scorer.
“He was very young and I think now he has developed a lot,” Conte said. “Salah is a good player and is very dangerous. He’s a technical player, but at the same time is very fast, very strong, very good in a one-on-one.
“Also he’s very good at finishing. We must pay great attention, but not only to Salah, also to [Sadio] Mane, [Roberto] Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and [Daniel] Sturridge. “They have a good coach [Jürgen Klopp], they have a good identity. Great organisation, especially offensively. They are very dangerous.”
‘My daughter killed me’
The Blues won 4-0 against Qarabag to qualify from Champions League Group C on Wednesday night, returning to London following the 2,500-mile flight from Baku, Azerbaijan and those complications.
Conte has continually bemoaned the fixture scheduling, which sees his side go to Anfield following limited recovery and one day’s preparation, 24 hours less than that afforded to Liverpool, who drew at Sevilla on Tuesday.
Despite the tiredness, Conte appeared fresh-faced after shaving off the beard he grew during the international break, having valued the opinions of his daughter Vittoria over those of his wife Elisabetta, who had encouraged him to grow it. “I wanted to try a new look, but yesterday my daughter killed me. She said to me, ‘Daddy, your look is older with the beard’. My daughter is more important than my wife.”
His side go in search of a fifth straight league win, but trail leaders Manchester City by nine points entering this weekend’s fixtures. Victor Moses, a key component of Chelsea’s title win last season, is available after a six-week absence with a hamstring injury. Moses, who spent the 2013-14 season on loan at Liverpool, is expected to be among the substitutes alongside David Luiz and Willian. Andreas Christensen and Alvaro Morata are likely to start.
Conte has adjusted his favoured 3-4-3 formation following some inconsistent displays, fielding an additional midfielder. He said: “We are trying to find different solutions compared to last season.”