Antonio Conte says the way English sides have breezed into the Champions League knockout phase demonstrates the high level of the Premier League, but he has pinpointed a stumbling block in their hopes for glory.
Chelsea marched into the next round with yesterday’s 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid, who were eliminated, while Man Utd, Tottenham and Man City are also through, while Liverpool need a draw tonight to progress.
“It’s true the level of the Premier League is very high,” said Conte. “To go with five teams into the next round, that means the level of the league is very high and there is a lot of quality in the players.
“I think there are also really good coaches. It was not ‘simple’ but ‘easy’ for a lot of these teams to go into the next round.”
Conte though says the tough schedule in England could be a detrimental factor later in the tournament with Premier League players arriving for big games with too many miles on the clock.
“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,” added Conte.
“When you accumulate games, games, 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 [the Champions League].
“But, at the same time, the English teams are very good and have the possibility to win and reach the final of the Champions League. I just ask in what physical condition they would arrive in that last stage?”
Conte is confident his side can do some damage in the knockout stage and believes no other team will fancy facing the Blues.
After finishing second to Roma, Chelsea could now be drawn against Paris Saint‑Germain, who beat them in 2015 and 2016, or Barcelona.
“But when you go through to the next round in this competition, you must be prepared to face the best teams,” Conte said. “So we must be ready. This is the best tournament.
“That’s why you want to go through and try to be a protagonist in this tournament. At the same time, our opponents won’t be happy to play against us, so we’ll see what happens.”