Chelsea's Conte bemoans scheduling ahead of City clash

Reuters
Chelsea's Italian coach feels the English Premier League champion is at a disadvantage ahead of its crucial encounter with table-topping Manchester City.
Reuters
AFP

Chelsea’s Alvaro Morata celebrates scoring the team's first goal against Atletico Madrid with manager Antonio Conte during their UEFA Champions League Group C match at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid, Spain, on September 27, 2017.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has questioned the scheduling of the side's English Premier League match against Manchester City on Saturday, saying his players may not have enough time to recover from their UEFA Champions League win at Atletico Madrid.

Michy Batshuayi's injury-time winner in the Spanish capital on Wednesday secured a 2-1 victory and strengthened Chelsea's position at the top of Group C standings, but Conte instead chose to focus on his team's congested fixture list.

The Italian feels the EPL championis at a disadvantage ahead of its crucial encounter with table-topping City, which had an extra day's rest after its 2-0 home win over Shakhtar Donetsk in the same competition on Tuesday.

"Honestly, in this case we are a bit penalized and I think it's very important before taking a decision like this to analyze the different situations of the teams," Conte told reporters.

"Don't forget, Manchester City played yesterday at home. 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. Honestly, I'm very surprised to see that this game we have to play on Saturday, not on Sunday."

The Italian, who led Chelsea to victories in both league games against City last season, said he would make a late call on the fitness levels of several players ahead of the encounter.

"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," he added.

City midfielder Ilkay Guendogan, meanwhile, expects his team's title credentials to be thoroughly tested at Stamford Bridge.

"It's a huge game and it's away, so it's even more difficult, but we feel ready," the 26-year-old Germany international said.

"If you ask the manager, there is always something to improve but we know that we are a great team, we have great players and it's just up to us to prove that every fourth day."

Unbeaten start

Pep Guardiola's City has made an unbeaten start to the season, netting 22 goals and conceding just three in six league games.

Meanwhile, Conte was far more content with Chelsea's display as it battled back in Madrid to claim a well-deserved three points despite falling behind to Antoine Griezmann's penalty five minutes before half-time, AFP reports.

Former Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata stretched his scoring streak to seven goals in as many games with a deft near-post header from the outstanding Eden Hazard's cross to level on the hour-mark.

Morata and Cesc Fabregas then passed up huge chances before Batshuayi struck the decisive blow with the last kick of the game after a patient team move tore a tiring Atletico to shreds.

"It is very difficult when Atletico Madrid score to come back, but despite this we deserved to win because we continued to play with good personality," added Conte.

"We kept our head on the pitch. We deserved to win against a really good team like Atletico Madrid."

In stark contrast to Chelsea's euphoria, defeat leaves Atletico, which reached the UCL final in two of the previous four seasons, struggling to make it out of Group C.

The Spaniards trail second-placed AS Roma by three points following its 2-1 win at Azerbaijani champion Qarabag earlier on Wednesday.

"They were better in every aspect of the game," admitted Griezmann. "We have a lot more games to play and we have to try to win them all.

"Maybe I needed to play better too. Apart from the goal it wasn't a good day for me. I have to learn from today and keep working."

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