“Everyone realizes that was a freak season for us but we are back in it,” Gary Cahill said of Chelsea’s return to the UEFA Champions League.
The captain sounds composed enough, but his manager is striking another tone as the Blues prepare for a Tuesday visit from Qarabag.
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Antonio Conte, dare we say, sounds a bit nervous when it comes to this managerial go-round as compared to his UCL runs with Juventus.
From the BBC:
“Now I think the English team has another difficulty because the league is tough here. Before the Champions League you would rest but it is not easy in England to do this.
“We are ready and we need to rotate the players of my squad and they must be involved. We are starting a path and to build something important. You need to grow step by step to be like Real, Bayern and you don’t create a big, strong team easily.”
Maybe the first part is worth discussing, but the second is not. Though its loan strategy does deprive Chelsea of massive depth, there’s no question its 2012 UCL title is closing than it appears in Conte’s rear view mirror.
For what it’s worth, Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho echoed the sentiment, though he claims it’s England’s lack of winter break which most hurts the side (and he says he likes the Christmas period).
Chelsea will have to face Atletico Madrid and Roma later in the competition, so this is a nice start for the Blues. Conte will be more concerned with Sunday’s visit from Arsenal.