Tuesday, November 21, 2017

We must not take stupid risks – Conte to bench Hazard again for Qarabag

SoccerNews in English Premier League 11 Sep 2017

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Antonio Conte is not prepared to take “stupid risks” with Eden Hazard’s recent ankle injury, meaning the Belgium star is set for the bench once again for Chelsea’s Champions League opener with Qarabag on Tuesday.

Hazard suffered a fractured ankle while on international duty with Belgium in June and is yet to start a Premier League match for the champions this season.

The 26-year-old winger was involved in both of Belgium’s World Cup qualifiers against Gibraltar and Greece at the start of the month, with Conte previously revealing that he and Roberto Martinez agreed that Hazard would benefit from getting those two games under his belt.

Hazard then played 12 minutes from the bench in Saturday’s 2-1 Premier League win at Leicester City, but Conte is adamant that he is going to be as patient as he needs to be to allow his star man to come back into the fold gradually.

Speaking at a media conference ahead of Tuesday’s visit of the Azerbaijani champions, Conte said: “He is in the group, in the squad and is working well to find the best physical condition.

“He needs a bit of time to continue to improve and we must not take a stupid risk with him. He will come on to the bench.

“He is an amazing player, we are looking forward to having him in our squad. He is an important player for us, we were forced to play without him through injury. We tried to win every game.”

Tuesday’s match will see Chelsea end a one-year hiatus from Europe’s elite competition and Conte is hopeful that the club can once again defy expectations following their Premier League title success last term.

“The chances [of winning the Champions League] this season? I don’t know,” he said. 

“If you ask me the chances of last season to win the title in England it was zero. Instead we changed totally the opinion of people.
 
“When you play this type of competition you play to try to do your best and try to win every game, to go step by step. I think we’re building something important for the present, but above all for the future.
 
“You start the competition in the same way as the other teams.”

However, Conte does believe that the strength of the Premier League can negatively impact the fortunes of English teams in Europe.

“We understand very well the level of this competition,” he added. “Now I think the English teams have another difficulty, because the league is very tough here [in England].

“In my past, sometimes before a Champions League game you rested. In England it’s not easy to do this. If you want to do this you risk a lot.

 “We are ready and for this reason I need to rotate all my squad. They must feel totally involved in this process. We are starting a path and it will be very important to start building something important.

 
“For me, for sure, this is something new. My previous experience was in Italy. To be realistic, it is not easy. When you play against a medium team and you have to know that you risk to lose the game in the league. 
 
“In this league there are six, seven teams ready to not only fight for the title but for a place in the Champions League and Europa League. You are never relaxed in England, because you have to play a tough league and also the FA Cup and Carabao Cup.

“Now we have to play Champions League. To play 60, 65 games it’s normal, but it’s not easy.”

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