Chelsea’s Italian head coach Antonio Conte arrives for a press conference at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid on September 26, 2017 on the eve of the UEFA Champions League Group C football match Club Atletico de Madrid against Chelsea FC. / AFP PHOTO / JAVIER SORIANO
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte blasted Premier League schedulers over his side’s short turnaround from Champions League action before facing high-flying Manchester City in a top-of-the-table clash on Saturday.
Conte’s men put in a brilliant performance to inflict only Atletico Madrid’s second Champions League defeat on home soil in 24 games on Wednesday, when Michy Batshuayi’s 93rd-minute winner sealed a 2-1 victory.
However, the Italian lamented the advantage handed to City, who played their Champions League fixture at home to Shakhtar Donetsk 24 hours earlier on Tuesday.
“I think we are a bit penalised and in this case, it is very important to analyse, before taking these decisions, the different situations of the team,” said Conte.
“City played yesterday at home. We played tonight away and we will return to London around four o’clock (in the morning).”
City lead the Premier League from Manchester United on goal difference, with Chelsea three points back in third.
“Man City is a really strong team. They are scoring a lot of goals, they are in a good moment of form and we have to prepare well (for) this game because it is very important.
“Before taking this decision someone must analyse very well this situation.
“There is the international break (after this weekend). My surprise is for this because there is the time (to play the game later).”
Conte was far more content with Chelsea’s display as they battled back to claim a well-deserved three points despite falling behind to Antoine Griezmann’s penalty five minutes before half-time.
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.
– ‘We kept our head’ –
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.”
Batshuayi was the unlikely hero as he came off bench just eight minutes from time to net already his fifth goal of the season despite playing second fiddle to Morata.
“To score for a striker is always important for your confidence but it is more important they understand this way to play is right,” said Conte.
“I want this type of player with great athleticism and to give me the possibility to make a change game-by-game.”
In stark contrast to Chelsea’s euphoria, defeat leaves Atletico, who have reached the Champions League final in two of the previous four seasons, struggling to make it out of Group C.
The Spaniards trail second-placed Roma by three points following their 2-1 win at Azerbaijani champions 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.”