Conte expects 'top player' Pogba to start for Man United
Under-pressure French midfielder hailed for his 'professionalism' by Mourinho
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has said it would be better for his side if Manchester United drop midfielder Paul Pogba again but expects his former protege to start when the two sides meet in the Premier League on Sunday.
Pogba, 24, developed into one of the most sought-after players in world football under the guidance of Conte after he swopped United for Italy’s Juventus as a 19-year-old in 2012.
The France international, who returned to United at the start of last season, has been criticised for his performances in recent weeks and manager Jose Mourinho again benched Pogba for the goalless Champions League draw at Sevilla this week.
“I expect to see him on the pitch. If he stays out it will be better,” Conte told a news conference on Friday. “We are talking about a top player, a fantastic player.”
Pogba, who came on as an early substitute for midfielder Ander Herrera in Spain, has not completed 90 minutes for more than a month and Mourinho once again faced questions from reporters about his relationship with him after the match against Sevilla.
“Every coach has to find the right way to manage him. Pogba is showing at United as well that he is a top player,” Conte added.
Chelsea will be without midfielders Ross Barkley and Tiemoue Bakayoko and defender David Luiz who all have injuries.
A win for the London side will put them level with second-placed United on 56 points and help them in their push to secure a Champions League place.
“It is a massive game for us, we have to give 120 per cent and try to get three points,” Conte said.
“From now on till the end, every game is important. Getting three points will be very important for us and very important for United too.
“The run for the Champions League is open and we must pay great attention because in this run there are many great teams and someone has to stay out of the next Champions League.”
Meanwhile, Mourinho has hailed Pogba's professionalism amid reports of rising hostility between them.
“You saw the game against Seville,” said Mourinho. “It’s always more difficult to come from the bench than to start.
“A player when he is starting the game has a different kind of preparation for it. To be on the bench and to come on without warming up and getting to the pace of the game is not easy.
“I think he had a very positive game for us. Some players on the bench take five minutes to be ready to play. They don’t have shin pads, they don’t have strapping, they don’t have the shirt.
"He took 10 seconds to be ready to come to the pitch, to show the professionalism and show he was ready to help the team.” – AFP, REUTERS