Head coach Antonio Conte lauded a “perfect”
Champions League return for Chelsea after
Tuesday night’s 6-0 Group C rout of Azerbaijan’s
Goals from Pedro, Davide Zappacosta, Cesar
Azpilicueta, substitute Tiemoue Bakayoko and
Michy Batshuayi ensured a comfortable return to
Europe’s elite after last season’s first absence
since 2003-04. The sixth was bundled in by a
combination of Batshuayi and defender Maksim
“It was a good start, a perfect start for us,” Conte
said. “To play the first game [of the] Champions
League, then to win with a good result, to score
many goals, to finish the game with a clean sheet. I
saw a lot of positive things tonight.
“Now we have to continue, we have to rest
tomorrow and then to start to think about the next
game, a strong game, a tough game against
Arsenal [on Sunday].”
Sterner tests await in the competition. Chelsea next
play Atletico Madrid with the saga surrounding
Diego Costa rumbling on, before home and away
clashes with Roma. It is those games which will
determine the Blues’ progress or otherwise.
Zappacosta’s 30th-minute strike was the highlight
on Tuesday night at Stamford Bridge.
The Italian, signed on deadline day from Torino and
making his Champions League debut, struck from
wide on the right. It appeared to be an attempted
cross which, for him and Chelsea, was wonderfully
Conte said: “He has said that he wanted to cross.
[But] he scored and it’s important for us.”
The Chelsea faithful sang “Zappacosta — he scores
when he wants,” as the right wing-back moved
halfway towards Costa’s Champions League tally
Chelsea did not respond to questions on the absent
Brazil-born Spain striker, who has two goals in 15
appearances in the competition for the Blues and is
now almost forgotten.
Fractious relations with Costa, and the Premier
League opening loss to Burnley, led some to
suggest a crisis at Chelsea. A month on and Conte’s
side have four successive wins.
Conte rotated his options for the second of seven
games in September.
He added: “To play in the Champions League it
means the coach trusts you. My message tonight
was this: I trust all my players, not with only words,
but with facts.
“If we think like last season to play with only 13
players we are crazy.
“We have to improve all these players to try and
create a good competition, a positive competition,
between them. It’s very important.”
Eden Hazard made his second substitute
appearance for Chelsea of the season after his
broken ankle, but Conte said it was too soon to say
whether the Belgium playmaker would start on
Sunday against Arsenal.
Conte added: “We must have a bit of patience with
him and to try to give the possibility for Eden to
recover very well.
“We must be calm and to do the best for the player
and for the team. Otherwise we risk a bad injury to
delay the situation. This is the right way. This
process is good for him.”
Qarabag beat the champions of Georgia, Moldova
and Denmark to become the first Azerbaijan side to
reach the Champions League group stages.
The English champions proved a different
Qarabag boss Gurban Gurbanov said: “The game
was very difficult for us. Chelsea played very good.
Chelsea is a favourite for the tournament.
“We made lots of errors and I accept we must play
even better. But I am satisfied with the way we