BURNLEY, England (Reuters) - Chelsea manager Antonio Conte praised the performances of his strike pairing Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud in Thursday’s 2-1 win at Burnley and said the combination could be an option for Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final against Southampton.
Conte started with Belgian Eden Hazard on the bench, likely with Sunday’s match in mind and despite the unusual sight of two target men up front, the move paid off.
“We played with great spirit, we had a great desire and will to fight,” Conte told reporters.
“It is not simple to play against Burnley because of you give them space then they are ready to put in the long ball and be dangerous with the second ball.
“Our strikers, Giroud and Morata, did a great job they played a fantastic game with a great sacrifice without the ball and they put great pressure on the Burnley defence and forced them to play long from their own half which is less dangerous,” the Italian added.
“(It was good) to see Giroud and Morata play this way, a good combination, a good link between them but also the way they press without the ball. This could be an option for Sunday or for the future,” the former Juventus boss said.
Both Morata and Giroud, who signed for Chelsea in January, have spent plenty of time on the bench this season but they caused Burnley defenders James Tarkowski and Kevin Long plenty of trouble.
“This is the first time I tried this solution with the two strikers but I got a response from them and in the future it could be a good option, the players showed this desire and will to sacrifice for the team,” Conte said.
Morata did, however, miss a clear chance when he was put through one-on-one against Burnley keeper Nick Pope and shot wide but Conte said his decision to substitute the Spaniard was simply about getting Hazard on the field for the latter stages.
Although FA Cup opponents Southampton are struggling in the relegation zone, Conte, whose side fought back to beat the Saints 3-2 on Saturday, said it would be wrong to see the game at Wembley as a formality.
“I hear that we are already in the final but if you remember, and I do very well, that five days ago we were 2-0 down against Southampton and we played a disaster against them. We must pay attention and play with the right desire and will to show that we want to play another final in the FA Cup. It would be great for ourselves and our fans.”
Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond