Baku: Chelsea must seal progression to the Champions League knockout stages with a crucial win over Qarabag on Wednesday to help ease the pressure during a congested fixture schedule, manager Antonio Conte has said.
Premier League champions Chelsea are second in their Champions League group and need one win to seal their spot in the knockout stages with two group fixtures remaining.
Conte has urged his side to get the job done in Azerbaijan and avoid the tension of battling for progression during a busy schedule that sees the London outfit play 11 matches, after Wednesday’s fixture, before the end of the year.
“We have to play the most important game of the season from the start until now,” Conte told reporters.
”If we are able to win against Qarabag, we can go through to the next round of the Champions League and this is very important because this period from now until January is very busy, so it is very important to win the game.
“It won’t be easy because in the last two games they drew twice against Atletico Madrid... it is very important to be focused, to work and to try to win the game.”
Chelsea are nine points behind leaders Manchester City in third position and travel to fifth-placed Liverpool in the league on Saturday.
Conte calls for Premier League fixtures rethink
English teams are not being given enough time to recover from Champions League games and the Premier League should review the way the fixture schedule is drawn up, Chelsea manager AConte has said.
Chelsea are second in their Champions League group and face Qarabag in Azerbaijan later on Wednesday seeking to book their spot in the last 16. They are then scheduled to face Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday.
Conte suggested the congested schedule is one of the reasons English sides have failed to reach the Champions League final in recent years. Chelsea were the last English club to reach the final when they beat Bayern Munich in the 2011/12 season.
”It will be very difficult for us to recover,“ Conte told reporters on Tuesday. ”Whoever prepared the fixtures for the league must pay great attention.
“I’d like to underline I‘m talking for all the teams who are playing in the Champions League, not just for Chelsea. At this moment, England needs to try to understand this problem and change something.”
Conte said Chelsea were in the same situation in September when they travelled to Atletico Madrid on Sept. 27 and hosted Manchester City three days later.
“For a lot of time, there hasn’t been an English team playing a final in the Champions League. Why is this? The teams are very strong, and every team has the possibility to go through to the Champions League final,” he added.
Updated Date: Nov 22, 2017 15:47:12 IST