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Chelsea boss Antonio Conte spoke ahead of the derby against Crystal Palace.

Despite being top of the league six points clear of the second one ( Arsenal) and coming from a ten wins in a row run, the Blues boss claimed his players have to pay attention now because everybody will try to beat the best team in the league, with nothing to lose.

But first, he gave an injury update:

“I think Eden Hazard is fit, but I still have to decide if I put him in the starting XI, I have this night to decide, it’s not easy to play two games in three days, we had very short recvoery time, so it’s important to take the best decision about my formation tomorrow.

“It can happen a player can have an injury and his substitte plays very well, it s important to have the chance to choose. We have no other injuries.

It was rumoured that Chinese Super League side Shanghai SIPG offered Chelsea more than £ 50m for Oscar, that is also attracted by a huge money offer for him.

Conte didn’t dimiss the speculation and commented the situation like this:

“I dont know the amount and the situation, but I think you will know the situation in the right moment.

“It’s not easy to take the best decision, you have also to understand if you choice penalise you.

“If we will replace him in January? I always speak with the club, with the board, they know my thought about the situation. We will try to take the best decision, but I am very sorry if I will go, for the player, for the man.”

The Italian manager was also asked about PSG star Marco Verratti, who some rumours claimed was in negotiations with Chelsea:

“I don’t like to speak of players that are not in my team, it’s a lack of respect for everyone.

Chelsea were top of the league four times in Christmas period and then four times won the league, with his fingers crossed Conte replied:

“I don’t like the stats and the story, I have to look the present.

“We started without a great ambition, I think it will be very difficult for us this season, we are a great surprise for many people, now it’s important to continue this way.”

Continuing to speak about tomorrow’s clash, the Blues bossa said:

“My players and I have great motivation to get three points, if we continue to win it’s fantastic, tomorrow it’s another derby, it will be very tough, they are not in a great moment, they are not in a good position in the table but they will have ambition.”

Palace manager Alan Pardew said Chelsea seem unbeatable:

“We want to continue to work and improve, in our project, in our system, for us now it’s difficult because the other teams have nothing to lose, everybody will try to break our 10 wins in a row run.

“I think us being top pf the table now is a great surprise, I arrived after a 10th place in the last season, manager change, new idea, new football….It’s not easy. I think we had a difficult moment when we conceded two defeats against Liverpool and Arsenal but then we fixed the things and took off.

“Every game is always open in this league, you must go with great concentration, to be very focused, I think that 6-7 teams can fight for the title until the end.

“I have always great respect for the opinion of other coaches, like Pardew, I think you can achieve some results only with hard work.

“When you arrive from 10 wins of course there is a great respect for you, but I repeat eat that this situation is very good for our rivals, because they have nothing to lose.

“This position is more difficult for us, it’s not easy to continue this way, while our opponents have nothing to lose.

“I don’t like to speak about the past and also about other managers, it’s important to be focused on the present, to achieve the results, we know we have to fight a lot until the end to stay in the title race. The situation can seem easy, but it’s not easy.

Conte was also asked about John Terry‘s situation:

“He’s ready to recover but he’s always with us, he travels with us, he is a really important player, for Chelsea, for me, for his team-mates. I don’t know when he will recover, but he is trying to do that.”

Again, Conte was consulted about Chinese Super League, that is trying to attract big players and managers with insane money offers and was asked if he scared about them:

“The Chinese market is a danger for every team in the world, not only for Chelsea, but I think we must be concentrated on our work. In China there is a lot of money , but I guess this league is fantastic, it must be a honour to work here.

“I can’t predict the future of a single player, I think every single player is the owner of his future.”

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Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic provided some thoughts on his professional career so far, in an interview for Chelsea FC Magazine.

The Serbia international impressed Red Star Belgrade talent scouts playing for his village team against Obrenovac: “Their football academy was one of the best in Yugoslavia, – Matic said – We played against them and lost 5-0 but the coach then found the telephone number f my home and he called my father to ask if I would go there to train, but I didn’t want to go from my village. I wanted to stay there”.

“After a while, when I grew up a little bit, I realised the team in my village was not that good. We didn’t have a good league so I went to that team in Obrenovac and after that it was easier for me. From there, I went to Red Star Belgrade, which is the biggest club in Serbia.”

“We were top of the table, but I played only six months there before an agent saw me in one game and asked me to go on trial to a team from the Slovakian first division called Kosice”.

“I said ‘Why not?’ I was only playing Serbian third division at that time. So I left to go to Slovakia, where my coach was Jan Kozac, who is now manager of the Slovakian national team”.

“He saw me when I spent seven days with the team and he said: ‘This player needs to stay,’ so I signed a contract.”

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Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas started in midfield against Sunderland, scoring with a curled shot past Jordan Pickford in the first half.

“In the first we were fantastic, we didn’t give them anything, – the Spaniard confirmed – They are a good team, playing at home and they want to win, so in the second half they put us under a little bit of pressure”.

“The only downside was that we need to kill games when we have the chance, but the performance was really good. We will watch the videos tomorrow but we felt we were very strong”.

‘We want to keep winning, we know in this period we can send a strong message and hopefully we can continue like this”.

About his teammate Thibaut Courtois, whose outstanding save secured Chelsea’s 0-1 win: “It’s very good we can compete like that, we should have been more clinical but credit to the defence, the whole team and Thibaut Courtois, who made some excellent saves, which shows we are together and strong”.

Then Fabregas added: “People say I cannot defend but I recovered the ball, went forward and scored,”

“It’s fantastic for me to score. I know what I can do but the problem is I haven’t had minutes, and if you don’t play you can’t show what you can do”.

“People forget it’s only the second time in my life, in my whole career, I’ve played this sytem. My team-mates have played a lot more than me”.

Fabregas played a key role also in the Blues’ away win at the Etihad Stadium: “Against Manchester City it was a big test because it was the first game. I’m getting used to it, I feel very comfortable. I have a lot of players in front of me so I can pick passes between the lines, they run into space and I have protection behind me. I’m really enjoying it and I think it suits me a lot”.

“Now I’ve had two starts in 10 days which is good for keeping my physical level up”, Fabregas stated “because you can train and train but nothing compares to the game. I felt it in the last 15 minutes when I didn’t have the energy I had in the first 75 minutes.”

“I’m satisfied for the team because we fought very hard: we can compete”.

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Chelsea manager Antonio Conte found the key to analyse the last two narrow wins against West Bromwich Albion and Sunderland.

“I am seeing that now, if you compare with when we started playing 3-4-3, many teams try to disrupt our play and our football, and try to avoid us developing our football.” Conte told ChelseaTV after the game.

“For this reason, it’s important to work more and increase our confidence and knowledge of this system. But it’s good to see the opponent change their system to block you.”

Chelsea boss remarked on the amazing save by Thibaut Courtois, who saved the game: “We created many chances to score the second goal and kill the game. At the end, Sunderland had a great chance to draw. Only a great save from Thibaut allowed us to win”.

“But to win 10 games in a row is not easy and I am pleased for my players. It’s fantastic, above all in this league when you have to fight in every game until the end to take the three points. They deserve this for their commitment and work-rate every day”.

“Now we have to continue as in three days we have another tough game against Crystal Palace. I hope we recover very well after this battle and to arrive at Christmas in an incredible position in the table”.

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Vincenzo D’Ippolito, Diego Laxalt‘s agent, revealed that Chelsea are keeping tabs on the Uruguayan star, who could join the Blues next summer as Marcos Alonso needs a back-up in that position.

“Genoa believe in him, but they are always open to selling their players for the right offer,” he said.

“He’s not going to leave in January, – D’Ippolito stated – But the club will definitely listen to offers at the end of the season”.

The 23-year-old is contracted with Genoa until June 2018, after the Serie A side signed him permanently from Inter Milan a few months ago.

“There are many clubs that have been scouting him. Fiorentina have been watching him for a very long time, they also wanted to sign him last summer, but there are also requests from the Premier League”.

“Conte had been scouting Laxalt when he was in Italy and he’d love to take Laxalt to Chelsea now.”

Chelsea are reportedly scouting also Southampton defender Virgil Van Dijk.

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Chelsea manager Antonio Conte selected Cesc Fabregas in the starting XI against Sunderland and the  midfielder scored decisive goal at the Stadium of Light.

“I am very happy for him – Conte told Chelsea TV – Cesc is a great example for the other players because this was only the third game he has started in the league”.

“This month he has a fantastic attitude, great behaviour, great commitment. I have four midfielders and I have to try to make the best choice before every game, and consider also when we have to face a physical opponent and when we need more technique”.

About his crucial goal in the first half: “His answer was very good today and also against Manchester City.’

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Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, speaking after the win against Sunderland last night, raised issue of midfielder Oscar, who has been heavily linked with a move to Shanghai SIPG earlier this week.

“The situation of Oscar will be clear in the next days – Conte told ChelseaTV – I prefer to stop talking! Oscar started the season very well with us when we played 4-3-3. When I switched to another formation he didn’t play a lot but I always count on him because he is a really good young player.”

“Sometimes there are situations that are very difficult to face, but his situation will be clearer in the next days.’ Conte ended.

The player himself reportedly told GloboSportTV that the deal “just depends on some bureaucratic details”.

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Chelsea traveled to the stadium of light to face Sunderland in the first midweek clash of the season.

The Blues, who are on a nine game winning streak and three points ahead of Arsenal in the table looked to extend their winning run with momentum well on their side against a lowly Sunderland who are rotting at the foot of the table.

Instrumental player Eden Hazard was left out of the starting lineup for the first time this season having suffered after effects of a knock during the weekend clash with westbrom.

Cesc Fabregas came on for Nemanja Matic in the starting lineup also as a result of the rotation during the busy festive period.Fabregas didn’t fail to justify his selection with his well placed finish in the 40th minute. Aside the Fabregas goal it was a pretty much dull half as Sunderland failed to threaten,the blues took their 1-0 lead into the second half.

The second half started the same with Chelsea dominating play,with Moses threatening from the right hand side with all his efforts going wide and Diego Costa also forced the Sunderland Pickford to a good save as Chelsea dominated the second half. It was quite a dull came and chances were few and far between for the hosts as they struggled to assert any kind of domination in the game as Chelsea matched to the top of the table with a 1-0 win which was a flattering scoreline for the hosts. With this win Chelsea extended their winning streak to ten games.

Chelsea (3-4-3) CourtoisAzpilicuetaDavid LuizCahill (c); Moses (Ivanovic 90+3), KanteFabregas, Alonso; Willian(Chalobah 89), Diego CostaPedro ( Matic 75).
Unused subs BegovicZoumaLoftus-Cheek, Batshuayi.
Scorer Fabregas 40
Booked Pedro 56, Moses 90+2

Sunderland (3-4-3) Pickford; Kone, O’Shea (c), Djilobodji; Jones (Love 59), Denayer, Kirchhoff (Larsson 57), Van Aanholt; Januzaj, Defoe (c), Borini (Khazri 82).
Unused subs Mannone, Asoro, Maja, Honeyman.
Booked Defoe 43, O’Shea 45+2, Borini 71

Referee Neil Swarbrick
Crowd 41,008

 

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Sunderland (4-4-2) – Pickford, Jones, van Aanholt, Djilobodji, Kone, O’Shea, Denayer, Kirchhoff, Januzaj, Borini, Defoe

Subs: Mannone, Love, Asoro, Larsson, Khazri, Maja, Honeyman

Manager: David Moyes

Chelsea (3-4-3) – Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill (c); Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso; Willian, Diego Costa, Pedro

Subs: Begovic, Ivanovic, Zouma, Chalobah, Matic, Loftus-Cheek, Batshuayi

Manager: Antonio Conte

Kick-Off: 7.45PM BST

Venue: Stadium of Light

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Chelsea manager Antonio Conte got his thoughts on Cesar Azpilicueta‘s contract extension until 2020.

Speaking to the club’s official website, the Italian manager said: “Azpi is a really important player for us”.

“I think he can stay here for many years and become another club legend in the future”.

Also the Spaniard’s teammates praised the defender earlier this morning.

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