Antonio Conte tempted to go all in with Olivier Giroud up front against Barcelona

Matt Law
Olivier Giroudseems certain to start for Chelsea against Barcelona as Antonio Conte opts for a conventional central striker - Chelsea FC

Antonio Conte has admitted that he has no choice but to gamble and send his Chelsea team out on the front foot against Barcelona on Wednesday night.

And that could mean a first Chelsea start in the Champions League for Olivier Giroud, the centre-forward Conte is minded to pick ahead of out of form record signing Alvaro Morata.

Needing at least one goal at Camp Nou to stand any chance of progressing to the quarter-finals, Conte is considering sticking with the front three of Giroud, Eden Hazard and Willian that started against Crystal Palace.

Conte played without a recognised striker in the 1-1 first-leg draw at Stamford Bridge but Hazard has made it clear that he feels more comfortable in a role off the left or just behind a recognised striker such as Giroud. Morata is yet to score this year, while Giroud netted in the FA Cup against Hull City and went close on several occasions in the Premier League victory over Palace.

Asked about the size of the challenge Chelsea face, head coach Conte said: “About the plan, in the first leg we had a plan. For sure, the final result was not a good result for us because 1-1 means you have to score, you have to win if you want to go into the next round, or to score twice to draw 2-2.

“You have to say the game will not be easy. We know the difficulty we can face. But if you want to go through to the next round, we must stay in the game in every moment.

Conte supervised training at Camp Nou on the eve of Chelsea's second leg round of 16 tie against Barcelona Credit: Eric Alonso/Action Plus via Getty Images

“We must start the game with great concentration, to stay with our heads on the pitch in every moment of the game, to know there are moments where we have to suffer – not only Chelsea, but every team who play Barcelona must be prepared to suffer, to be compact. Then, when we have the ball, we must have the feeling in our heads to try and create a chance to score.”

Willian scored Chelsea’s first-leg goal against Barcelona and hit the post twice. The Brazilian has netted five times in his last five appearances and wants to add to that tally in Spain.

“Of course, I'm happy with my form at the moment,” said Willian. “I'm happy with the goals that I've scored, but I want more. For the team, as well. We come here respecting Barcelona - they are great and have great players, a big club like Chelsea are a big club. We want to do our job, the perfect job, to go through to the next round. That's what we want.”

Willian has scored five goals in his last five matches Credit: Eric Alonso/Action Plus via Getty Images

On Morata’s struggles, Conte said: “Don't forget, for Morata, this is the first full season in his career. Also because, in the past, with Real Madrid and Juventus he was on the bench, he was the first substitution if the striker was injured. For this reason, I think we must have great patience. You are talking about an important striker. For sure, he is a really important prospect for Chelsea - for the present and the future.”

Both Conte and Willian spoke about the need for Chelsea to play a “perfect game”, but the Italian dismissed the suggestion that progressing through to the last eight would rank among his best achievements.

Conte also insisted that Hazard needs to win trophies such as the Champions League before he can be compared with Barcelona stars such as Andres Iniesta.

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“In my career, I consider an achievement when you win something,” said Conte. “I think this is a big achievement for a manager, for a coach. In this case, we are talking about the last 16. We have to make great game if we want to have a chance to go into the next round. We are playing against Barcelona and I consider Barcelona one of the best teams in the world. They are winning the league, they are in a final of the Spanish Cup. They have all the characteristics to have a great season. But, as you know very well, you are never sure with football.

“For this reason, I repeat, like the first leg we want to try and play our football and try in every moment we have the ball to create chances, to score, to create problems for Barcelona.”

Asked to compare Hazard and Iniesta, who is a fitness doubt for Barça, Conte replied: “We are talking about two different players with different careers. Iniesta won a lot in his career. Hazard has to start to win important trophies in his career.”

Chelsea overcame the odds to draw 2-2 with Barcelona in the Camp Nou in 2012 to progress to the final and eventually win the Champions League, but Willian insisted history will not play a part this time around.

“I watched that [2012] game,” said Willian. “But, for me, every game has its history. This game is in the past. Wednesday will be another history, a new story. A new game. I think for us to go through we have to do a perfect game with the ball and without the ball. That's the most important thing to get through to the next round - a perfect game.”

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