Antonio Conte Has No Regrets Over Playing Andreas Christensen Against Barcelona
Chelsea may have almost played the perfect game against Barcelona at Stamford Bridge, last night, when on another night Willian's two thunderous first half strikes would have flown inside both posts rather than cracking against them, but still Antonio Conte had to deal with questions about his team selection, despite the impressive nature of his team's performance.
Eyebrows were initially raised when neither Alvaro Morata or new arrival Olivier Giroud were named in the Italian's starting XI, but as it happened, neither player would have likely offered more than the likes of Willian or Eden Hazard did.
Yet, it wasn't Conte's choice of attacker that came under scrutiny during his post-match press conference, but instead his decision to start Andreas Christensen in place of Gary Cahill.
Christensen's been brilliant all season. So typical this error falls in such a high profile game. He will learn from this, no doubt. Hard to be too critical of him. Bad decision but move on.- David Cartlidge (@davidjaca) February 20, 2018
The 21-year-old's inclusion against Barca really shouldn't have come as much of a surprise given how much he has impressed during his 31 appearances for the Blues, this term and especially given how under par Cahill has been in recent games.
But Christensen's performance was marred by a rather catastrophic error that led to Lionel Messi's 75th minute equaliser for Barcelona. The youngster played a misplaced pass across the edge of his own 18-yard box, which allowed Andres Iniesta to break into the box and lay on Messi to tuck a lovely finish past a helpless Thibaut Courtois.
He's done it...Lionel Messi finally scores against Chelsea! :goat:- Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) February 20, 2018
Now we have a proper tie on our hands! pic.twitter.com/x3YBwv9KgZ
But when the question was posed to Conte about whether he regretted starting Christensen, the Italian offered a staunch reply defending the 21-year-old when speaking to Sky Sports.
"No, absolutely not. I think Christensen's performance was a very good performance, an incredible performance. We are talking about a player who is only 21 years old here.
"It's great that he is able to play this game with maturity and personality. I am very happy. He was one of the best players tonight.
"It is very difficult to pick one player or another player but I think Christensen played a top game. I am very pleased with his performance."
Conte comes out strongly backing Christensen. "He's only 21, and was one of the best players tonight. A top game."- Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) February 20, 2018
Conte's words will no doubt provide a boost for Christensen after his mistake, which really shouldn't overshadow the fact that the defender still enjoyed a fine game at the heart of the Blues' defence and has been terrific for the Premier League champions all season.
Featured Image Credit: PA