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Conference Call: Battling Blues

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That we progressed to the FA Cup semi-final having played two hours of football on the back of a European trip made Antonio Conte especially happy as he assessed his side’s extra-time victory over Leicester City.

The boss watched Alvaro Morata put us ahead before half-time, and then our hosts’ number nine Jamie Vardy equalise to take a tightly-contested tie to an extra half-an-hour.

It was during that period Pedro headed the winning goal and Conte discussed his contribution among other subjects afterwards, but started off by assessing the game as a whole…

‘We must be pleased with the character we showed in this game against a really good team with great talent,’ Conte said.

‘After a Champions League game, it wasn’t easy for us to play 120 minutes in this way, and in this weather. We fought a lot and we showed great desire and will to fight, and will to reach the semi-final for the second time in a row.’

Morata netted with a clinical finish for his first goal of 2018

‘For a striker it’s very important to score. At the same time, I am very pleased with his overall performance. He played a good game and showed great character and strength. This goal will be very important for the future.’

Another Spaniard delivered the knockout blow in unlikely fashion

‘He scored a header here last season too! It’s great for him and the team. Pedro is another player who is putting everything in at every moment, if he starts or comes on. I am very happy for him.’

Conte explained why Tiemoue Bakayoko, Willian and Andreas Christensen were withdrawn

‘Baka got a yellow card, and we are talking about a player with great physicality. In a game like this, you have to prevent a second yellow card. For this reason, I decided to change him.

‘Willian was very tired. Willi played a fantastic game with and without the ball, and he is in fantastic physical condition. It was the same [tiredness] for Christensen after the Barcelona game when we spent a lot of energy.’

The draw for the last four pitted us against Southampton, with Tottenham and Man United meeting in the other fixture

‘When you arrive at this point of the tournament it’s very difficult to consider an easy game. Don’t forget Man City were eliminated against Wigan. We must be ready to fight to try to reach the final at Wembley for the second time in a row. It will be very important for us, but we must know Southampton will have the same idea.

‘We want to give the best satisfaction to our fans who pushed us a lot today. I want to say thanks to them.’

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