Antonio Conte praises Chelsea players after "difficult" Newcastle challenge

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte praised his players after their 3-0 FA Cup Fourth Round win against Newcastle United.

The Blues won courtesy of a first half brace from Michy Batshuayi before Marcos Alonso’s sensational free-kick midway through the second period.

Conte said: “I think it was a good performance. It wasn’t going to be easy because Newcastle played a very defensive game with five players on the edge of the box, three midfielders very deep and two strikers. I think it was very important to score (the first goal).

“Pedro and (Eden) Hazard created a fantastic chance (for Batshuayi) with their ability; Hazard played the final pass and Michy scores the goal. After this goal the situation (in the game) was more simple for us and in the second half we controlled the game.”

Conte pointed out that his side had to play well because the FA Cup has a history of providing shock results. The Italian added: “We did not risk conceding a goal so we must be very happy but it was not easy. When they draw you against another team of the Premier League it is never easy. You can see yesterday, the Liverpool game [they lost to] West Brom. Tottenham (Hotspur)’s game (1-1 draw at Newport County). This competition is very dangerous for the [bigger] team.”

Batshuayi’s goals were well-taken but his place in the starting eleven was met with some surprise due to recent links away from Stamford Bridge. However, Conte is keen to keep the former Marseille man: “We are talking about a player who has been working with us for one year and-a-half. I think in the year-and-a-half he has improved.

“If you see our squad we do not have three, four, five strikers – we have two strikers. We have Morata and Batshuayi. Morata now is out and the other (option) is Hazard. I think Hazard is a different striker but he can play easily [as a striker in our system] and we have played in the past in this way.

“When you have to play [Premier] League, Champions League and then FA Cup, I think three strikers is the minimum (amount you can have in the squad).”

Conte, though, admitted it would be difficult to stand in the Belgian’s way should Chelsea sign a player and Batshuayi wish to see regular playing time in order to earn a place in the Red Devils’ squad for this summer’s World Cup: “For sure I know there is a World Cup competition and every player wants to play and try to push the coach of their national team to call him for the World Cup. 

“In this case if the club decides to add another player then I don’t know. If Michy wants to go on loan in this case it is a player decision and not my decision. For me I’m ready to continue to work with these players. I’m very happy with all my players.”