Football

Conte ready for Arsenal after selection gamble pays off against Qarabag

Antonio Conte believes his decision to rest several Chelsea stars for their Champions League demolition of Qarabag will be rewarded when the Blues face Arsenal on Sunday.

Conte left out David Luiz, Antonio Ruediger, Victor Moses and Alvaro Morata for the 6-0 thumping of the Azerbaijan side at Stamford Bridge yesterday morning (Singapore time).

With those key players kept fresh and Eden Hazard coming off the bench for only his second appearance since close-season ankle surgery, Conte is confident Chelsea will go into the London Derby in optimal shape.

"It was a good start, a perfect start us," Conte said. "To play the first game of the Champions League, then to win with a good result, to score many goals, to finish the game with a clean sheet.

"I saw a lot of positive things. Now we have to rest and get ready for a tough game against a strong Arsenal team."

Conte's selection gamble was never in danger of backfiring as goals from Pedro Rodriguez, Davide Zappacosta, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Cesar Azpilicueta and Michy Batshuayi ensured Chelsea made a strong start to their Group C campaign.

Giving his second-stringers valuable game time was an added bonus for Conte, who said: "I wanted to give a chance to Michy and also to Andreas Christensen.

"To play in the Champions League means the coach trusts you. My message tonight was this: I trust all my players, not with only words, but with facts.

"Last season, we played with only 13 players. To do that again would be crazy.

"We have to develop these players, to try and create a good competition, a positive competition, between them.."

Conte was also encouraged by Zappacosta's first start following his deadline-day move from Torino.

The right wingback capped a lung-bursting run with a cross that flew in for their second goal.

"He told me he was aiming to cross," said Conte, who also praised the 25-year-old.

"He knows very well my style of football and that's why I started with him. It's not easy to change your life in one week, but his answer was very good."

Despite Hazard's solid showing as a second-half substitute, Conte admitted it might be too soon for the Belgian playmaker to start against Arsenal.

"We must have a bit of patience with Eden," Conte said.

"We must give him the possibility to recover very well, to be totally fit. Otherwise, we risk a bad injury." - WIRE SERVICES

OTHER RESULT (GROUP C)
AS Roma Atletico Madrid
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Champions LeagueCHELSEA (EPL)Antonio Conte