Antonio Conte and Eden Hazard insist Chelsea fear no one with Barcelona and Paris Saint-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 a 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 leads theirs ahead of Wednesday’s final group game.
The Premier League holders have been knocked out of the Champions League by PSG on the last two occasions they took part in the competition. Turkish club Besiktas are another possible opponent in next week’s draw.
Matchday 6: As it happened
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.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) December 5, 2017
A confident Antonio Conte
Conte says Chelsea fear no-one in Europe’s elite club competition but reckons the strength in depth of the domestic league makes winning the European Cup difficult for English clubs.
“With five teams to go through to the next round means the level of this league is very high,” said Conte, speaking ahead of Liverpool’s bid to progress on Wednesday night and with Manchester City, United and Tottenham already confirmed group winners.
“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 (the Champions League).”
English teams will not be able to be meet in Monday’s draw, under UEFA regulations.
Chelsea was the most recent English team to reach the final, winning in 2012, and Eden Hazard reckons Chelsea have what it takes to progress in the competition.
Conte added: “You must be ready to face the best teams. Our opponent won’t be happy to play against us.“
Atletico Madrid, on the other hand, went to the competition expecting at least a quarter-final finish. Now they are in Europe’s second-tier competition after costly draws with Qarabag. 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.“
Any team that reaches the knockout stage of the Champions League should be confident of getting a result against any other team in the competition, be it Barcelona or PSG, as sooner or later they will have to face the top teams in the competition if they are going to win the trophy. Antonio Conte and Eden Hazard’s words after the match would have made Chelsea fans extremely happy as it shows that they are confident about their own abilities and fear no one in the competition.