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Monday 18 December 2017

Conte: 'Premier is Chelsea's biggest Euro obstacle'

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte

Antonio Conte says the biggest obstacle in Chelsea's bid for Champions League glory is the Premier League - and not Barcelona or Paris St Germain.

Lionel Messi's Barca and Neymar's PSG, plus Turkish side Beskitas, are possible opponents in the last-16 after Chelsea drew 1-1 with Atletico Madrid on Tuesday night.

The point saw Chelsea fall behind Roma in Group C, based on head-to-head record, after the Italian side beat Qarabag to send Atletico and Diego Costa into the Europa League. 

Conte says Chelsea fear no-one in Europe’s elite club competition, but reckons the strength in depth of the domestic league makes winning the European Cup difficult for English clubs.

"With five teams to go through to the next round means the level of this league is very high," said Conte, speaking ahead of Liverpool's bid to progress on Wednesday night and with Manchester City, United and Tottenham already confirmed group winners.

"Don't forget here this season is very tough. You have to play a lot of games, but when you arrive at the final stage to play for quarter-finals, semi-finals the English teams have a lot of games in their legs. For this reason I think it could be problematic to win (the Champions League)."

English teams will not be able to be meet in Monday's draw, under UEFA regulations.

Chelsea were the most recent English team to reach the final, winning in 2012, and Eden Hazard reckons Chelsea have what it takes to progress in the competition.

Hazard said: "It's not a problem. We are Chelsea. We can face any team."

Conte, meanwhile, has been fined £8,000 after admitting an English Football Association misconduct charge following his sending-off against Swansea.

The Italian was sent to the stands by referee Neil Swarbrick towards the end of the first half in Chelsea's 1-0 victory after furiously protesting against the award of a Swansea goal-kick.

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