With his Chelsea side set to host La Liga leaders Barcelona in Tuesday’s Champions League last 16 first leg, Antonio Conte has highlighted a flaw in the Blaugrana’s game which he believes can be exploited.
“For sure we are talking about one of the best teams in the world,” the Blues’ manager is quoted as saying on the club’s official website.
“We have to try to have the perfect game and to make the best decisions also for this type of team, because this is a different opponent. They have a fantastic characteristic with the ball. They can have the weakness without the ball and we have to try and exploit this.”
Conte has risked opening up old wounds by publicly commenting on the perceived weaknesses in a side who has not always been the greatest friend of Chelsea’s. The teams have met in four fiery knockout ties since Roman Abramovich’s takeover in West London, with each eliminating the other twice. However, the Italian insisted that his only focus is the looming battle this season.
“I think that the past is not important. The most important thing is the present. The present is this game and we know very well we have to work very hard to stop this team. This is a new story for me with a new team and I’m very happy to have this type of challenge,” he said.
After the Stamford Bridge clash, the sides will meet again at Camp Nou on 14 March. The Blues eliminated Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals when the teams last met in 2012, with Ramires and Fernando Torres pulling Chelsea back from behind after John Terry was sent off. Six years later, the Catalans finally have their first shot at claiming revenge and making Conte eat his words.