Antonio Conte admits Chelsea’s recent defeats to Arsenal remain a sore point and he will look to right a few wrongs tomorrow.
Chelsea’s 3-0 loss at Arsenal in September 2016 prompted a change to a 3-4-3 formation and a 13-game winning run which led to the Premier League title triumph in Conte’s first season as head coach.
But the Gunners denied Conte the double by winning May’s FA Cup final and then won the Community Shield last month at the Premier League champions’ expense, albeit on a shootout.
Conte was at pains to point out both Arsenal’s wins came with Chelsea reduced to 10 men. Victor Moses was sent off in the FA Cup final, Pedro in August’s season curtain raiser.
“In both situations I think you have to see very well if there was the red card or not,” Conte said.
“I hope to finish the game with 11 players. Then during the game I think the best will win.”
Asked about May’s 2-1 FA Cup final loss, in particular, Conte brought up Alexis Sanchez’s controversial early goal, which might have been ruled out for handball and offside.
Conte added: “The first goal was very strange. I am sure that this goal (should have been) disallowed. Instead, we started the game 1-0 down.”
Two FA Cup final goalscorers – Sanchez and Diego Costa – have been subject to speculation of departures but remain, for now.
Costa is still to return to Chelsea as he agitates for a move to former club Atletico Madrid. Like Costa, England midfielder Danny Drinkwater will not be involved against Arsenal, with his debut delayed until October by a calf injury.
Drinkwater was an unused substitute against his former club Leicester last Saturday and missed the midweek Champions League win over Qarabag of Azerbaijan.
Conte said: “It’s very difficult to see him before the international break. He needs time to recover.”
Eden Hazard could start for Chelsea for the first time this season after two substitute appearances.
The Belgium playmaker, who tore through Arsenal to score a stunning solo goal in February, suffered a broken ankle in June.
Conte said: “To have this type of patience for him is paying off. He’s very close to be totally fit.”
Conte is likely to make a number of changes after rotating his players for the Qarabag contest, while he downplayed the significance of Arsenal having played Cologne on Thursday, giving them less recovery time.
He added: “I watched the game and (Arsenal boss Arsene) Wenger rotated a lot of players, a lot of players rested for the game against us. I think it’s not an advantage.”
Arsenal have not won at Chelsea since October 2011 and have won two of 21 games against the established top six since the start of the 2013-14 season.
Arsenal’s 4-0 loss to Liverpool in their most recent away game led to further scrutiny over Wenger’s position, which had been in doubt prior to May’s FA Cup final.
Victory at Wembley resulted in the Frenchman signing a new two-year contract. The 21st anniversary of his appointment comes next month.
“I don’t care about this situation,” Conte said. “I want to speak about Chelsea’s situation, not Arsenal’s. Every time we speak about this we are unlucky. They solve their problems, we solve our problems.”
One of Conte’s problems is a sore throat, for which he is taking antibiotics.
However, he hopes to be able to bellow instructions to his players from the touchline as usual tomorrow.
“I hope to solve the situation, otherwise it will be a problem for me,” he added.
Heightened security is likely at Stamford Bridge in the wake of the Parsons Green explosion, which is being treated as a terror incident. Conte opened his press conference with thoughts for those affected.
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