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Opposition View: Chelsea

27 January 2017

ESPN's Chelsea Correspondent Liam Twomey previews Saturday's Emirates FA Cup tie

Where does the Emirates FA Cup sit on Antonio Conte’s priority list?

Saturday clearly isn’t Chelsea’s main priority given the opportunity that they have in the Premier League. They will make changes because Antonio Conte sees the cup as a great opportunity to look at the players who are regularly on the bench and the Academy players who don’t get much first-team time at all. It is still a priority because Conte never wants to lose and it will be a talented team because there’s no other possibility given Chelsea’s squad.

How much do you get the sense that Conte is driven by silverware?

It is impossible to get that out of him publically. Whenever you talk about a long-term objective he refuses to discuss it because for him it is all about the next game. He is utterly driven towards winning the next game which naturally leads towards winning trophies. He won trophy after trophy at Juventus. His relentless intensity lends itself more to leagues rather than cups but he wants to win every trophy he can and Chelsea have two left they can win this season.

What sort of Chelsea team would you expect to see on Saturday?

There will be two types of player playing on Saturday. There will be the young kids, like Nathaniel Chalobah and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who don’t get many opportunities and are absolutely desperate to prove a point and players like Michy Batshuayi who are trying to justify a big price tag. At the other end of the spectrum there’ll be John Terry and Cesc Fabregas who have been there and done everything. Their professionalism won’t be in question and they know that they are nearer the end of their career than the beginning so this might be their last run in the FA Cup. You will still see people like Diego Costa and Eden Hazard on the bench as Chelsea still want to win the game. If it looks like the game is in doubt then they will come on.

A lot has been made about Conte’s 3-4-3 system since he introduced it earlier in the season, how do you go about beating it?

The system has been very difficult to work out since he introduced it in September. Teams have changed formation to try and match it which hasn’t helped them because they take themselves out of what they do well. While there will still be a lot of quality players they don’t have the same chemistry and match sharpness. If Brentford get going quickly and play with a high intensity then they could get joy. In the last round against Peterborough United, Chelsea had a few sticky moments so they will be more uncertain. In terms of the 3-4-3, the space is around the wing-backs so if Brentford can get down the wings they can hurt Chelsea.

How much would a cup run, and a local derby win, mean for the Stamford Bridge faithful?

Chelsea have a proud recent record in the cup and everyone wants to go as far as they can in it. The fans have been spoilt with FA Cup success recently. The club have used the FA Cup recently to redeem a lost season as the first-half of the season has been a mess. That is not the case this time but that doesn’t mean it is any less important. There is also the derby element and the fans will make sure the players know just how much that means.

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