Chelsea, Clubs, Story, UEFA Champions League

Chelsea secure passage to the Champions League round of 16 with a comfortable 4-0 win over Qarabag.
Chelsea secure passage to the Champions League round of 16 with a comfortable 4-0 win over Qarabag.

Antonio Conte revealed his mind had already turned to devising a tactical game plan to face Liverpool after watching Chelsea demolish 10-man Qarabag 4-0 in Baku to book their place in the Champions League knockout stage.

Willian struck twice while Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas converted penalties as the Blues picked apart the Group C minnows, who saw captain Rashad Sadygov sent off in the 19th minute for hauling down the Brazilian in the box.

Firmly in control by half-time, Conte took the opportunity to substitute Hazard, Marcos Alonso and N’Golo Kante in the second period in order to give them as much revoery time as possible ahead of the trip to Anfield, while Andreas Christensen and Tiemoue Bakayoko were rested entirely.

After the match Chelsea’s head coach said he would spend the six-hour flight back to London thinking about how best to set up against Liverpool on Saturday.

“For sure we have to work during the flight to prepare for Liverpool,” Conte said. “With my staff we started also before, not to arrive [unprepared] at the last moment. To have only one day to rest and prepare [for the match] is not simple or easy. It is not right.

“Now I think after tonight we must be pleased that we reached our first target to go through to the next round, [and] to avoid the Atletico game being decisive for us. It will be a good chance to have another rotation with the players.

“It is very positive for us in a game that I knew very well wouldn’t be easy. Atletico drew twice and Roma struggled, so we faced a really good team.”

Conte applauds vs Qarabag 171122
Antonio Conte applauds the away supporters after Chelsea beat Qarabag on Wednesday night.

Liverpool enjoy an extra 24 hours of rest after undertaking a significantly less arduous trip to Spain to take on Sevilla on Tuesday night, but Jurgen Klopp’s men endured a far more gruelling ordeal on the pitch, surrendering a three-goal lead to draw 3-3 at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

“I watched the game,” Conte added of Liverpool. “In the first half they played a really good game, but football is strange. What happened in the first half is difficult to explain. They had chances to score other goals, but they were unlucky.

“The result is not important — for us it is important to prepare [for Saturday’s match] in only one session. We know the qualities of Liverpool.”

And Hazard felt Chelsea should have won more emphatically given the circumstances, while also turning an eye to Saturday’s important Premier League match.

Hazard said: “We did everything well, apart from conceding the first chance when they hit the post. Maybe that would be different if that went in. We should have scored more.

“It is easy to play with these good players. We have a big game at Liverpool on Saturday so it was good to have a small rest. We are ready for Saturday.”

And Willian was convinced the decision to award the first penalty that saw Sadygov dismissed was the correct one.

He added: “Was it a penalty? A little bit of contact. For me it was a penalty — I don’t think for you guys it is, but for me it was a penalty.

“I’m happy to score two goals. We deserved to win tonight.

“We need all the players to be ready for all games. We have to rest and try to win more games.”

Information from PA Sport was used in this story.

Liam is ESPN FC’s Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.

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