Antonio Conte expressed belief that Chelsea can still make the last eight of the Champions League despite being held to a 1-1 draw by Barcelona in the first leg of the team’s last-16 tie at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.
Chelsea took a second-half lead through the impressive Willian only to be pegged back by Lionel Messi’s first ever goal against the Blues following a mistake from young defender Andreas Christensen.
The goal would seem to have handed the La Liga leaders the advantage, although the Italian begged to differ.
2005: Chelsea ✅
2006: Barcelona ✅
2009: Barcelona ✅
2012: Chelsea ✅
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) February 19, 2018
“At the end of the game we are disappointed with the final result. But, at the same time, this game must give us a lot of confidence to trust that, in the second leg, qualification is open,” said Conte.
“We paid dearly for one mistake because we were very close to playing the perfect game. But, against this quality of opponent, if you make a mistake you pay.
“It won’t be easy, we must be realistic because we are talking about Barcelona, and they showed they are a fantastic, strong team tonight. But we showed, too, that if we work very hard together defensively, but at the same time win the ball and create the chances to score, we can try to do something incredible at Nou Camp.”
Conte said that in order to progress, his team would need to follow his game plan.
“If you want to face Barcelona box to box, you are crazy,” he added. “You’ll go on to lose the game 4-0, 5-0, 6-0, so you must be intelligent.
“My players are not stupid. They followed the programme we prepared and understood the plan.
“A coach can have a fantastic plan but, if the players don’t believe in this plan, you are dead. But my team were excellent. Barcelona were fighting so hard to create a chance, and then one mistake opened us up.”