Conte: "Here in Barcelona with passion, courage and respect. Lukaku is out, Sanchez is a good person"
Here are the thoughts of Antonio Conte ahead of Champions League clash against Barcelona.
“The group we’re in is a great and interesting one, although it is also difficult. This was brought to our attention when we played Slavia Prague. If you have ambition, desire and hope to continue in the competition, you need to pick up points everywhere you play. It isn’t easy playing at Camp Nou, but we’re here to play our cards. And we’ll do this with great respect, because we’ll be playing a team in contention to win the Champions League. I expect a difficult match, irrespective of whether Messi plays or not. He’s a player who’s obviously capable of shifting the balance and influencing the direction the game is heading in, but Barcelona have many world-class players. We’ll see who plays tomorrow and we’re ready to face a fully fit side. And it would certainly be a fantastic and exciting prospect facing a Barcelona side with Messi in it.
“We need to play in an intense fashion and at a good tempo, producing our game with the ball and also performing well when out of possession. Barcelona are capable of scoring at any moment. We need to be aware that games like this are part of the growth process, it won’t be easy but we need to make sure that we’re ready. We want to make a good impression and demonstrate that we’re going down a path where we’re able to cause top teams problems, we’re only at the beginning of our journey.”
Barcelona vs. Inter evokes very special memories for the Nerazzurri: “In 2010, Inter did something incredible, something that won’t be easily replicated. There’s respect for that Inter, for Mourinho. Making comparisons is impossible, that was a different era. We’re at the start of a journey which we hope will lead us to growing, the aim is to bring joy and happiness to our fans. Facing Barcelona needs to be a source of pride for our players. We’re coming into the game on the back of six wins in the league. We’re here to play our cards in a humble manner, knowing that we’re working to iron out some of our flaws.”
On Alexis Sanchez and his red card over the weekend against Sampdoria: “I haven’t liked some of the things that have been written after his red card in Genoa. Alexis is a good lad who lives for football. With the penalty, he wasn’t trying to fool anyone, he got back up immediately. He’s a player who I admire and he’s getting used to our idea of football. He’s available and can give us a lot, also in terms of experience.”
Every side in the group sits on one point: “Our results should be a consequence of what we do. We need to come here to Camp Nou and play our cards, showing character and courage in the process. By doing this, you can usually pick up a good result. Tomorrow, I’m especially interested in seeing the right attitude, we can’t just think about playing a defensive game. This is not why we’re working, we want to grow in all aspects. Results are simply a consequence. Nobody prepares for matches not to win, this would be like going against the growth we’re working towards and the thing which I ask of the lads every day. I want every player to try to always give their all and put themselves at the team’s disposal. We need to have confidence in what we’re doing. I want courage and passion.”
Lastly, Conte revealed that Lukaku did not make the trip with the team due to an injury: “Romelu didn’t travel with us because he’s got a slight problem with his quadriceps. It’s a problem he’s had for about ten days now and one that he kept on mentioning, but tests have revealed that it’s nothing serious. We’re quite relaxed about it but didn’t want to risk him.”