Antonio Conte: Chelsea are 'prepared to suffer' at Barcelona
LONDON -- Antonio Conte has admitted that his Chelsea players will have to "suffer" against Barcelona on Tuesday, claiming it will require a "perfect" performance to overcome Lionel Messi's side.
The Premier League champions face La Liga's leaders in the round of 16 first leg at Stamford Bridge as huge underdogs, despite Messi never having scored against Chelsea in eight previous games against the club.
But while Conte insists Chelsea can take a positive result to Camp Nou for next month's second leg, he is under no illusions about the challenge facing his team, especially when it comes to stopping Messi.
"We are talking about the best player in the world," Conte said. "Messi has the capacity to solve the situation and create a chance when you are not seeing the chance to score.
"This means that this player, we are talking about a fantastic player. We have to pay great attention, but not only to Messi. [Luis] Suarez is a fantastic striker.
"The other team are very dangerous, so we have to work as a team to try and stop Barcelona: Messi, Suarez, [Andres] Iniesta... the whole team of Barcelona.
"We have to work very hard. We have to know that, during the game, we must be prepared to suffer. But, at the same time, we must have the idea to go and score at any moment.
"I repeat: we are talking about a tough game against a special opponent, a very strong opponent. For this reason, we must pay great attention.
"We must have a plan. Barcelona have specific characteristics: they like to have possession, to dominate the game and create many chances.
"We know very well their characteristics. At the same time, we studied our opponents very well. Now we have to play and do what we know. This is the only way we can get through."
Conte has a full strength squad to choose from against Barca and he admits that his selection dilemmas have kept him awake at night in the build up to Tuesday's game.
"I think that, these days after the game in the FA Cup [against Hull], I must be honest... it was a bit difficult to sleep, to sleep well," Conte said. "But not a lot. When you have to play this type of game, you have to prepare.
"You have to prepare everything. You have to prepare big things, but the smaller details too.
"We have to play a perfect game against Barcelona if we want to win. I repeat, on paper, you start these two games with one favourite and this is Barcelona.
"I think that they earned the right to be the favourites this season for what they have been doing for many years in football in the world.
"For us, we have to try to work, to try and do our best. Then, at the end of the game, if we are very good to win the game, it will be OK.
"Otherwise, it means that Barcelona were better than us."
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_