Conte: Remaining optimistic

Antonio Conte has spoken of the importance of having good targets in mind, as the Blues look to put an end to a run of successive stalemates with victory at Brighton.

The Blues make the trip to the south coast looking to record a first win of 2018, with our last three points coming courtesy of a 5-0 dismantling of Stoke City at the Bridge in our final fixture of last season.

With Manchester City seemingly on their way to the Premier League title, the boss was asked in his pre-match press conference whether it would be difficult to remain upbeat in the quest to challenge Pep Guardiola’s side for the remainder of the campaign.

‘It is not difficult,’ Antonio explained. ‘We must be optimistic because there are still four months of the season left to play and we have good targets in mind still.

‘We are in the semi-final of the Carabao Cup, the next round of FA Cup against Newcastle and we are still competing in the Champions League. We are fighting for a place [in the top four] in the league too. I think we must be optimistic and continue to work hard. Our work must give us the right optimism.

‘We have to fight if we want to make a great achievement. In England, it’s very difficult to win the title compared to in other countries. You start the season with six top teams all fighting for the title and this is the only country like this. It is a battle to finish in the top four.’ 

Following the midweek penalty shoot-out victory over Norwich, the focus now switches to the Premier League with the Blues taking on Brighton, in what will be our first competitive fixture at the Amex Stadium.

Our previous game against the Seagulls was only as little ago as Boxing Day, with Spanish duo Alvaro Morata and Marcos Alonso on target for us that day as we took the points in a 2-0 home victory.

Antonio spoke of his relationship with his opposing number, Chris Hughton, and talked highly of the Brighton boss ahead of the game.

‘I know Chris from when I was coach at Juventus and he was coach at Norwich,’ said the Italian.

‘One pre-season he came to speak to me about Fabio Quagliarella, who is now at Sampdoria. We spent a few hours talking and then before and after the game against Brighton this season, I had the pleasure to stay and drink a glass of wine with him, to get to know him better.

‘He’s a really good person and when I see his team, I see a well-organised team. He’s a good person and if there is possibility to have a dinner with him, I would like to go. He’s a very educated person. From what I saw of him, he’s a really good coach and I can see good organisation on the tactical aspect from him. His team always try to play football in the right way and they have a good idea. For sure, he is a good coach.’ 

Ross Barkley could be in line to make his Chelsea debut, after Conte confirmed that he will be in the squad making the trip to the south coast, with the Italian also asked whether his arrival could impact on the progress of some of our players out on loan.

‘I think that at the start of the season, the club took the best decision for every player,’ he reported. ‘For example, Ruben Loftus-Cheek was given the opportunity to go to Crystal Palace and play a full season with regularity. The same for [Kurt] Zouma and the same for Tammy Abraham .

‘In this moment, about Ross Barkley, the club took a good opportunity to buy an important English player and didn’t spend a lot of money. Because I think his valuation is a lot more than what we paid for him.

‘Before the season, you try to make the best decision for every single player. This is our policy. We did it with [Andreas] Christensen. He had two years at Borussia Monchengladbach and now he’s playing every week for Chelsea.’