Conte can scent Liverpool blood ahead of clash

Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte wants his Premier League leaders to inflict a major blow on Liverpool’s title hopes tonight.
Conte can scent Liverpool blood ahead of clash

Liverpool have inflicted one of Chelsea’s three league losses this season, winning 2-1 at Stamford Bridge in September.

But Jurgen Klopp’s men have one win in eight games this month and are 10 points behind the Blues.

Conte pointed to the fact 15 games remain after their trip to Anfield, saying “the result doesn’t decide the season of Chelsea or Liverpool tomorrow”.

But he believes the Reds may find it too difficult to respond from defeat in the remaining 15 games.

“It could be a hard hit mentally for them,” Conte said. “It’s important to win this type of game, increase you confidence, take three points from a rival.

“I hope to change the result if you compare the first game and the first part of the season.”

Chelsea followed up the loss to Liverpool with a Premier League defeat at Arsenal, who visit Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Conte added: “It’s a very important week, but also I know after two of these games we have 14 games to finish the championship.

“The results are important, but the championship doesn’t finish after these two games.”

Conte’s switch to a 3-4-3 formation after the Arsenal loss was the catalyst for a 13-match winning run in the Premier League, ended at Tottenham on January 4.

“Honestly, I think we are a different team, not Liverpool. I think that we grew a lot,” Conte added.

“After the game (against Liverpool) I said: ‘today we faced a great team, a really great team, but today we are not a team. Only through work we can improve to become a team’. I think it happened.

“We grew a lot and for this reason now we are top of the table.

“It’s incredible this, because it’s not easy to have two defeats against Liverpool and Arsenal and to find the strength to start and to arrive top of the table and to have 13 wins in a row.”

Conte described the fact the match was taking place on the evening the January transfer window closes as “very strange”.

For now, at least, defender Branislav Ivanovic and goalkeeper Asmir Begovic are in the squad, with Conte reporting no injuries ahead of yesterday’s training session.

Ivanovic’s nine-year stay at Chelsea could be nearing an end with Zenit St Petersburg a rumoured destination, while Begovic will be allowed to join Bournemouth if the Blues can find a suitable replacement.

Ivanovic scored his 34th Chelsea goal on his 377th appearance against Brentford last Saturday, but has fallen down the pecking order since the beginning of the season.

Conte said: “Ivan played a lot of games for this club. He won a lot for this club.

“He’s 32 and I think he can play for many years and is able to continue his career in the right way and (at a) top level.

“It’s important also to respect the decision of the player. Above all for this type of player, a legend in the club.”

Conte said the Begovic situation was unchanged.

“Asmir wants to go to play, because he wants to play every game,” Conte added.

“If we are able to find a good replacement, he’ll go.

“If I can help my players to be happy, I try. (But) it’s important that this situation doesn’t penalise the team.”

Conte was coy on the prospect of any new arrivals.

“I don’t know what happens,” Conte said.

“For sure tomorrow at 11 o’clock at night the transfer window finishes.

“We’ll see the new situation. This situation is normal and I’m very calm.”

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