Antonio Conte sees ‘hope’ in Chelsea’s once ‘impossible’ top-4 chase

Antonio Conte praised Chelsea for maintaining a Premier League top-four challenge that once looked “impossible” by beating Liverpool 1-0 at Stamford Bridge.

Olivier Giroud’s first-half header proved enough for the Blues to earn their fifth successive win in all competitions, while at the other end Mohamed Salah and the rest of Liverpool’s prolific attack looked a little blunted by their Champions League exertions against Roma.

Chelsea must beat Huddersfield and Newcastle in their final two matches while hoping that either Tottenham or Liverpool slip up in order to secure a place in Europe’s elite club competition next season, but after the match Conte insisted that they can go into the final week with optimism.

“We must be pleased because the players played a really good game,” Conte said. “Usually when you have to play a must-win game, it’s not easy. It’s normal to be a bit nervous. Today it was a must-win game, but not against a simple opponent.

“[Liverpool] are very dangerous, these three strikers, and it’s impressive the way they attack, and the way they defend the ball, and the combinations.

“We must be pleased with our will to fight and desire, and will to keep the hope alive to take a place in the Champions League. I don’t know if this will be enough at the end of the season, but we have to try.

“Now we have to prepare the game on Wednesday against Huddersfield — another tough team who are playing to avoid relegation and drew at Manchester City — but we want to try and get three points.”

Asked if he had given up hope of qualifying for the Champions League during Chelsea’s prolonged slump in form from January to April, Conte replied: “One month ago it was impossible to imagine we’d arrive at the end to fight for a place in the Champions League. Now there is hope.

“We are getting three points in every game. Our opponents are dropping points. But our future is not in our hands. We have to try, though. We have to try to get three points to put pressure on the teams ahead of us.”

Alvaro Morata was a surprise omission from Chelsea’s match day squad due to injury, but Conte does not expect his striker to be out for long.

“It’s not serious,” the Italian clarified. “In my mind, there is the intention for him to be in contention for the game against Huddersfield. I hope to recover him, also because today, on the bench, we had no strikers.”

Conte also indicated that Huddersfield will encounter a different Chelsea team to the one that beat Liverpool. “We’ll have to make rotations on Wednesday because today took a lot of energy from us,” he admitted. “Then we’ll see what happens.

“It’s important to approach this situation with great pride and a great will to fight, to show we are still alive.”

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