Premier League's defending champions Chelsea are not imperiled by the prospect of facing Europe’s biggest teams in the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League, club manager Antonio Conte has said.
Tuesday’s 1-1 draw meant that Chelsea finished second in Group C that was led by Italy’s AS Roma and can face Paris St Germain, Besiktas or potential Group E winners Sevilla, in the last 16.
“When you go through to the next round in this competition, you must be prepared to face the best teams. We could be up against PSG, Barcelona or Besiktas, but we must be ready,” Conte told reporters after Tuesday’s match.
“This is the best tournament. That is the reason why you want to go through and try and be a protagonist in this tournament. At the same time, our opponents won’t be happy to play against us either. We’ll see what happens.”
Head coach, Conte’s side are the only English team to not finish first in their group so far after Manchester City, Man United and Spurs progressed to the last 16 as group winners.
Today, Liverpool could join the trio, and finish ahead of Sevilla in Group E, if they beat Spartak Moscow later.
Conte said the fact that all five English teams could reach the knockout stages showcases the level of talent in the Premier League but felt some of Chelsea’s domestic rivals had easier group fixtures.
“I think it was not simple, but easy for a lot of these teams to go into the next round. But, in the future, we have to see. Don’t forget, here the season is very tough. You have to play a lot of games,” The Italian added.
Conte believes that the English teams will find it harder to excel in the latter stages of the tournament as they play more games than their European rivals.
Conte further stated, “When you accumulate games and then you arrive at the final stage, playing in the quarters or the semis, the English teams have a lot of games in their legs.”
“For this reason, it could be problematic to win. But… the English teams are very good and have the possibility to win and reach the final of the Champions League.” The draw for the last 16 will be held on Monday in Nyon.