Belfast Telegraph

Antonio Conte: I've got great men and fantastic players at Chelsea

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte admits the trust he has placed in his players is paying off as they edge their way to the Premier League title.

Pedro and Willian, who came off the bench, both scored in the 3-0 win at Everton but neither have been nailed-on first-choice selections for Conte this season.

Add to that Cesc Fabregas' reduced role in the Premier League as the Italian has kept faith with virtually the same starting line-up week in, week out, and it could have potentially posed some problems for Conte when he did need to call on those players.

But when he has done they have all invariably delivered and their manager believes this team spirit has helped take the team to the brink of the title, leading Tottenham by four points with four matches to go.

"It is great to have this type of player and for sure it is not easy every game to make the best decision between Pedro and Willian," the Chelsea boss said.

"Also for me it is not easy to keep Cesc sometimes on the bench because I think Cesc is a player that in this part of the season is showing to be decisive in every moment if he starts the game - and also Willian.

"They are used to playing every game but they are showing me to be great men and fantastic players.

"Pedro is showing to be a great player but don't forget Pedro played with Barcelona and he won a lot with the club.

"He is a great player and he is having a fantastic season but he must continue this way and finish this season and win otherwise also for him it is a good season - but not a fantastic season."

Conte gave an insight into the relationship he has with his players when asked what he said to them in the dressing room after the win at Goodison.

"After the game the message was not with words, only hugs to show great enthusiasm," he explained.

"I think it is important to win but also to have great enthusiasm.

"It is very important to stay together in this moment because we must feel this season could become fantastic."

Conte has been lucky with injuries this season and his first-choice side has not been too affected.

The sight of centre-back David Luiz limping off late on was a cause for concern but again Conte utilised another player who has had a bit-part role in Nathan Ake, who spent the first half of the season on loan at Bournemouth.

"I didn't speak with the doctor about his (Luiz's) injury but I don't think it is a serious injury for him," added Conte.

"I hope in the next game that David Luiz is available to play. Also now in this part of the season it is important sometimes to try to play if you are not 100 per cent with your condition.

"He is showing us great commitment in this season. Don't forget his injury in the knee after the game against City - but I am very pleased for the impact of Ake in (the Everton) game.

"He came on and I think he looks a veteran and it is great.

"He is only a young player that started to play for two years, Watford and Bournemouth, and now is showing great commitment, work-rate, concentration when I ask him to play. It is great for him.

"It is not easy to be used to play every game for Bournemouth and to arrive for Chelsea and stay on the bench and sometimes understand.

"But I think he understood I trust him because I put him in the (FA Cup) semi-final against Tottenham. I put him now in a very important moment for us."

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