Antonio Conte: Chelsea can beat Arsenal if no one is sent off



Antonio Conte said he hopes Chelsea get through Sunday’s Premier League match against Arsenal with 11 men, and hinted that red cards shown to Victor Moses and Pedro Rodriguez in the two previous meetings between the teams were unjustified.

Arsenal head to Stamford Bridge having won their last two games against Chelsea — triumphing 2-1 in the FA Cup final at Wembley in May and beating their London rivals on penalties at the same stadium in the Community Shield.

Moses received a second booking for diving in the first match while Pedro was shown a straight red card for a late tackle on Mohamed Elneny in the second, and Conte is keen to avoid giving the Gunners a potentially decisive man advantage for the third time in a row.

“I hope to finish the game with 11 players, because in the last two games, FA Cup final and the Community Shield, we finished two games with 10 men,” he said. “I hope this. Then during the game I think the best [team] wins.”

Asked if he would instruct his Chelsea players to be more disciplined this time around, Conte said: “For sure when you start the game you try to keep always the right discipline, but in both situations I think you have to see very well if there was the red card or not.”

Chelsea have been working towards this match since Wednesday while Arsenal had to navigate a chaotic Europa League match against Cologne on Thursday evening, but Conte played down the significance of the extra preparation time for his squad.

“I watched the [Arsenal] game and Wenger rotated a lot of players, a lot of players rested for the game against us,” he said. “I think it’s not an advantage.

“I think Arsenal is one of the six top teams in England. And I think they have a really good squad to fight for something important — the title in England for sure. For this reason I think it’s a massive game for us. It’s the same when you play against City, against Liverpool, [Manchester] United, Tottenham.

“In England there are six top teams and when you play against one of them it’s always a massive game. Anything can happen so we must pay great attention. We have to fight and play a game against a rival.”

Conte’s squad is approaching full health. Club captain Gary Cahill is back from suspension as Eden Hazard works his way towards peak fitness with regular cameos from the substitutes’ bench, though deadline day signing Danny Drinkwater will not make his Chelsea debut until October at the earliest due to a calf injury.

“About Eden, for sure he’s improving,” he said. “To have this type of patience for him is paying off. He’s very close to be totally fit.

“We have to continue in this way. Don’t forget I have to make the best decision for the team, for the players. But I think he’s improving a lot and he’s very close to be 100 percent fit.

“For Gary, he came back against Qarabag and I think he played very well, a good performance. I’m pleased for him. I have another day to reflect and then to make the best decision for Sunday [whether he starts].

“I think it’s very difficult to see [Drinkwater] before the international break. He needs time to recover. It’s a pity because he was starting to work and to improve his physical condition and also to adapt himself in our idea of football.

“Now we have to move all these situations [back]. And in two, three weeks, four weeks, I don’t know.”

Sunday’s match will be subject to heightened security measures at Stamford Bridge following Friday’s terrorist incident on a tube train at Parsons Green, and Chelsea are advising supporters to allow extra time to make their way into the stadium.



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