Chelsea boss Antonio Conte and playmaker Eden Hazard do not fear next opponents

05 December 2017 11:24

Antonio Conte and Eden Hazard insist Chelsea fear no one with Barcelona and Paris St Germain possible opponents in the first knockout round of the Champions League.

A 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid saw the Spaniards eliminated and the Blues finish as Group C runners-up to Roma on head to head records.

Finishing second means, as it stands, Chelsea could on Monday be drawn to face Lionel Messi's Barca, Neymar's PSG or Turkish side Besiktas in the last-16.

They cannot face another English club and Manchester City, United and Tottenham have won their groups, while Liverpool lead theirs ahead of Wednesday's final group game.

Conte said: "This is a fantastic competition, this is the best tournament. If you want to go through, if you want to try to be protagonists in this tournament, you must be ready to face the best teams.

"Our opponent won't be happy to play against us."

Hazard told BT Sport Football: "It's not a problem. We are Chelsea. We can face any team.

"We know PSG and Barcelona, they are very good. But we are Chelsea and we have to be ready for everything. We can do everything."

Conte thinks the strength in depth of the Premier League makes it difficult for English teams, who have not won the European Cup since Chelsea did so in 2012.

"To go with five teams to go through to the next round means the level of this league is very high," Conte added.

"Don't forget here this season is very tough. You have to play a lot of games, but when you arrive at the final stage to play for quarter-finals, semi-finals the English teams have a lot of games in their legs. For this reason I think it could be problematic to win."

Conte suggested the other English teams had more straightforward groups in the Champions League - "not simple, but easy," he said - and that was perhaps proven by the elimination of Atletico.

Roma's 1-0 win over Qarabag means Los Rojiblancos and former Chelsea striker Diego Costa will play Europa League football in 2018.

The Blues were already through but needed a win to secure top spot.

Saul Niguez's header gave Atletico the lead. Chelsea had chances, with Jan Oblak frustrating Alvaro Morata and Andreas Christensen heading wide before Hazard's run forced Stefan Savic to turn the ball into his own net.

Substitute Willian might have won it for Chelsea, who instead had to settle for a draw.

"We deserved to win the game," Conte added.

"When you create so many chances to score, but important chances, not simple chances, you have to try to take them. We could be more accurate."

Nothing less than a victory would do for Diego Simeone's visitors, who won 3-1 here in April 2014 to reach the final of this competition.

Atletico, who reached at least the quarter-finals in the last four seasons, also needed Qarabag to win at Roma.

But draws with the Azerbaijan side proved costly and saw them fall into the second-tier European competition.

Simeone said: "I wouldn't say it's a failure, because we knew this could happen.

"We have no excuses. The responsibility is ours. We managed to get more points off the team which finished top than the team who finished bottom. It's difficult to explain."

Source: PA


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