Antonio Conte began his first Champions League press conference as Chelsea coach in good humour, but it is clear the concern of competing on four fronts weighs heavy on his mind.

Compared to his demeanour just a few weeks ago, the 46-year-old is in a much happier place. 

Before the questions to Conte got under way, he joked about how the club’s head of communications had swapped seats from his normal position and inferred that it could jinx the team.   

Three successive Premier League wins, as well as two deadline day signings, has clearly seen Chelsea’s difficult start to the campaign put firmly behind them.

Now Conte is back competing in the competition he loved as a player and had just two attempts at as a manager with his previous club side, Juventus.

Chelsea boast a fine record in the tournament. Between 2004-14, they won it in 2012, were beaten finalists in 2008 and have also reached the semi-finals on five occasions.

As English champions, much will be expected of them, however Conte had a word of warning for any fans expecting more glory days on the continent.

Their opening group match against Qarabag at Stamford Bridge is the second in a run of seven matches in the space of just 21 days. On Sunday they face London rivals Arsenal, with the League Cup campaign starting the following midweek.

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Conte is aware of the magnitude of the challenge ahead of him and Chelsea’s starting XI against the Azerbaijan champions looks set to reflect that.

He said: “We understand very well the level of this competition. Now I think the English team has another difficulty, because the League is very tough here. 

“We played two days ago, we have to play tomorrow, then we have to play a tough game against Arsenal. It’s normal and there is the necessity to do rotation. Otherwise you arrive to play the rest of games against teams without energy.

“In my past (with Juventus) sometimes before a Champions League game you rested. In England it’s not easy to do this. If you want to do this you risk a lot.

“For me, for sure, this is something new. My previous experience was in Italy. To be realistic is not easy. When you play against a medium team, you have to know that you risk to lose the game in the League. 

“In this league there are six, seven teams ready to not only fight for the title but for a place in the Champions League and Europa League. 

“You are never relaxed in England, because you also have to play a tough league and also FA Cup and also League Cup. To play 60, 65 games it’s normal, but it’s not easy.”

Clearly there are going to be few changes to Conte’s side in view of the Arsenal match, but Conte doesn’t see it as a gamble.

“I think that when you make the decision there is always the risk,” he said. “The risk could be to play with the same players as against Leicester and then after the game (people will ask) why didn’t you change the team that was tired?

“It’s important for our eyes. It’s important – our previous experience as player and as coach. You know very well if you win you’ve made the best decision, if you lose you’ve made the worst decision. 

“Qarabag is a good team and for them this is the first time to play this competition. I know a lot of these players very well because I played against Azerbaijan when I was Italian coach. We played our qualification against them.

“We must pay great attention. These type of games I like to call these games tricky games. And we must pay great attention.”

Still Chelsea supporters are expectant, more to the point so is owner Roman Abramovich. Managers have been fired at the west London side for their failure to compete at Europe’s top table.

But Conte concluded:  “We must understand we are starting a path. I hope this path to be short and not too long, to try to be competitive in a short time and not wait three, four, five years.”

Source: https://www.standard.co.uk/sport/football/mindful-antonio-conte-is-ready-to-play-the-rotation-game-with-chelsea-competing-on-four-fronts-a3632146.html