Antonio Conte to rotate his squard ahead of champions league match

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Antonio Conte admits he must take risks and rotate his squad as Chelsea make their return to European football.

The Premier League champions launch their Champions League campaign with an opening group game against unfancied Qarabag of Azerbaijan.

Conte is without Danny Drinkwater, who picked up a calf injury in training on Sunday, and plans to rest others with Sunday’s derby against Arsenal and a congested autumn schedule in mind.

‘It is necessary to rotate,’ said the Chelsea manager. ‘Seven games in 21 days is not easy.

‘In the past, before a Champions League game I have rested players but in England it is very difficult to do this. You play a medium team and you can lose in the Premier League.

‘You risk a lot but we are ready and for this reason we must rotate the squad. I trust all my players.

‘We played two days ago and then in the Champions League and then against Arsenal on Sunday and then in the Carabou Cup and then two more games in the Premier League and then Atletico Madrid.

‘There is the necessity to do rotation. Otherwise you arrive without energy. We play in a tough league and then two cups and we are starting to play the Champions League. To play 60-65 games at a high level is not easy.’

Eden Hazard, who came off the bench at Leicester on Saturday to make his first appearance since breaking his ankle in June, is not expected to start and others will be rested as the manager takes a calculated risk against Qarabag, a team in the Champions League for the first time.

‘This a tricky game and we must pay attention,’ said Conte. ‘When you make a decision there is always a risk.

‘The risk could be to play with the same players I did against Leicester and then it would be why didn’t you change the team?

‘This is our job. We must use our eyes and our previous experience as player and coach.

‘If you win it was the best decision if you lose it was the worst decision. I must be realistic and calm and try to make the best decision for these seven games in 21 days. To play every three days, honestly is not easy for the players to play every game.’

Chelsea, Champions League winners in 2012, last appeared in the competition when knocked out by Paris St-Germain in the first knock-out round in 2015-16.

 They failed to qualify last season but are back as champions. Even so, Conte is careful not to predict too much.

 

‘We are starting a path and building something important,’ said the Italian. ‘You have to grow step by step and arrive like Real Madrid and Bayern Munich and Juventus are the same now. You don’t create a big strong team easily.

‘I don’t know if there is a chance this season. But people gave us no chance to win the title last season and we changed the opinion of the people.

‘You play to do your best and to try to win every game, step by step. We are building something important in the present and also for the future and you need time to do this.’

It also marks a return to the competition for Conte. His last experience in the Champions League was when Juventus were knocked out at the group stage by Galatasaray in a tie which was halted by a blizzard in Istanbul and completed the following day on a pitch churned by the machines sent on to clear the snow.

Conte said: ‘I played twice in the Champions League as Juventus coach but it wasn’t this Juventus. We were at the start of our path, don’t forget this.

‘The previous season we lost in quarter-final against Bayern Munich and Bayern Munich won the tournament. Then we reached semi-final in Europa League against Benfica.

‘I have more experience as a player. I played a lot of years in this tournament and played in the final. I won only once. It’s a great competition and we must be pleased to be back and proud to play in the competition and try to out all ourselves. But for sure this competition in very tough.’

 

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