I’ll be blunt here, fellas: I don’t like Antonio Conte. In fact, I can’t stand the man. Perhaps it’s the fact that he was a key part of the rebuilding of this annoyingly brilliant Juventus side. Perhaps it’s the fact that he is the most Juventus man I’ve seen in my entire life, with all the flaws that piss you off. Or it could the fact that he has hair plugs (for God’s sake, man, accept that defeat!).
Conclusion: I didn’t really like Antonio Conte during his Juve days and still can’t stand him at Chelsea, thus making the upcoming Champions League all the more important to me on a personal level.
Chelsea v. Roma: October 18, 20:45 CET/2:45 EDT. Stamford Bridge, London.
Our beloved Roma goes to the upcoming match in a good position, believe it or not, defeat against Napoli notwithstanding. Atlético de Madrid’s poor start of the Champions League group phase has them with just one point while Chelsea has all six points, Roma has four points and Qarabag, quite probably this year’s cannon fodder, has zero.
So, according to the calculations, you normally need at least ten points to qualify for the next round. If Roma can get their shit together to defeat Qarabag at Rome (I’m saying this because, come on, this is Roma and any shit can happen), then we truly need three points out of the two matches against Chelsea and the one against Atlético in their new stadium, the Wanda Metropolitano (no, it has nothing to do with Icardi’s missus, stop that joking of yours, I say!).
That brings us to the match in hand. Can Roma defeat Chelsea? Well, the Londoners are having what you might call an uneven season. Massive victories against Tottenham and Atlético (away, in both cases) has been accompanied by unexpected defeats against Burnley and, just recently, against a Crystal Palace side that didn’t even score until their match against the Blues. Add N’golo Kanté’s injury to this equation and the irregular performances of some of the key players of last season’s successes (Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses, Pedro, David Luiz and Gary Cahill) and you can tell that Chelsea are not doing very well.
Having said that (and despite my dislike for the man), Conte is a motivator and is one who can get the best out of his players in key moments. This match against Roma, in his own country, is vital for the Blues to regain some momentum and a team boasting the likes of Fabregas, Eden Hazard and former Juve man Álvaro Morata (who apparently would be available to face Roma, according to Conte himself) cannot ever be underestimated.
Roma itself are coming from a very painful defeat against Napoli and with an injury crisis that won’t allow major changes from the squad that played this weekend. The Dutchman of Steel, Kevin Strooman, is going to return to the fold and his experience would be paramount in this feature. Kostas Manolas would miss it after limping off against Napoli, so Rrruan and Fazio would have to take over for this; considering Morata’s knack for scoring a lot of headers, the Argentinian might be vital in this aspect. Other than that, the squad is basically the same that faced Sarri’s team.
Chelsea is, above all things, a cynical team: They know how to win and they’d do it without hesitation. In that regard, they are a lot like Conte’s Juventus (and Allegri’s, to a certain extent): A side that doesn’t shine much, but can get the job done. Like most matches, the midfield would be vital and having lost Kanté for a few weeks, Roma may have the upper hand with Radja, Dani and Dutchman of Steel; Fabregas is a brilliant passer, but a defensive liability, while Bakayoko is a workhorse, but he ain’t no passer and his dreadful performance against Manchester City before the international break proof that he’s still adapting to his new club.
Considering that both teams are not having the best of seasons so far, having uneven performances, I can see this being a draw or a slight victory for any side by just one goal. But, who knows, really? Roma has made self-destruction an habit and we could easily be winning 4-0 at half-time and lose 5-4, with De Rossi getting sent off four times (too bad Diego Costa left; him against Dani would have been more epic than Goku against Vegeta).
Both teams have a lot to win and lose here. I can understand Chelsea dreading this match (memories of Bayern, United and Barcelona still hurt), but the key for great moments is to rise above these circumstances. One victory against Chelsea would come a long way to secure the qualification and to make an statement that we can participate in this competition and be exactly that: Competitive.
Plus, paraphrasing Tyrion Lannister, imagine the look on Conte’s face when they fall. For that reason alone is worth winning.