Antonio Conte has admitted the prospect of facing Barcelona has given him sleepless nights.
Ahead of their Champions League clash with the runaway La Liga leaders, Conte warned his charges that they must keep their focus if they must knock out one of the ‘best teams’ in the world.
“It was a bit difficult to sleep, to sleep well. When you have to play this type of game, you have to prepare. You have to prepare everything. You have to prepare big things, but the smaller details too; Conte said.
“We have a plan in our heads. I think that, in this specific moment, it’s very important to pick the players who are at the top of their form and then try and do our best to win the game.
“I think we start this game as underdogs, for sure, because Barcelona – on paper – are favourites to go into the next round. But, for this reason, I think we must be excited to play this challenge.
“I think that, for sure, we have to play a perfect game against Barcelona tomorrow if we want to win. I repeat, on paper, you start these two games with one favourite and this is Barcelona.
“I think that they earned the right to be the favourites this season for what they have been doing for many years in football in the world. For us, we have to try to work, to try and do our best.
“We know the characteristics Barcelona have: they like to have possession; they like to control the game. In every game they are able to create many chances to score, so we must be ready to suffer without the ball, to be compact, not to lose our heads during the game.”
On the pressure surrounding his job at Chelsea, Conte added;
“I don’t know how many times I have had to answer about the pressure.
“This is football. Football is this. If you want to compete at the maximum level, you have to live with this pressure.
A team like Chelsea in every game must have the right pressure.
“We have to try to play the game with only one idea: to try and win. Sometimes you are able to. Sometimes not. But that must be your idea.
“You have to live with the pressure. If we want to stay at this level, the pressure must be your friend, not your enemy.”
Having knocked the Catalans out of the Champions League on the road to winning it in 2012, Eden Hazard, who was still a player of Ligue 1 side Lille believes Chelsea may hold a psychological edge over Barcelona.
“You want to shine when you play the best in the world,” said the Belgian. “If I want to reach that level, I need to do a great game tomorrow.
“We know that it’s tough to beat Chelsea. We are in a good position. We play the first game here. We’ll give everything. Of course, Barcelona are one of the best teams in the world.
“But, in the past, they struggled against Chelsea and I hope tomorrow will be the same. We want to win, that’s it.”