Chelsea boss Antonio Conte insists Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain will hope to avoid his side in the last 16 of the Champions League after a draw at home to Atletico Madrid saw them finish second in their group.
The Blues are likely to get one of Barca, PSG or Turkish champions Besiktas in next week’s draw after they missed chances to score a winner once a Stefan Savic own goal had cancelled out Saul Niguez’s opener. The result handed Roma top spot, while Atletico crashed out.
Yet despite the heightened risk of facing one of the competition’s heavyweights — including PSG who knocked them out in 2015 and 2016 — Conte insists his side will be similarly feared by Europe’s elite.
“When you play these competitions and you go through to the next round you must be ready to face the best teams,” he said.
“This is a fantastic competition, it’s the best tournament, for that reason if we want to go through we must be ready to face every team. At the same time I think our opponent won’t be happy to play against us.”
Chelsea had to beat 2016 runners-up Atletico in order to secure top spot and came close to taking control through Alvaro Morata in the first half.
The Spaniard forced trademark acrobatics from visiting goalkeeper Jan Oblak, stinging the Slovenian’s fingertips on 24 minutes with a snapshot from a tight angle.
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Soon after the restart former Chelsea left-back Filipe Luis had a dipping effort from distance cannon off the post and into the path of midfielder Niguez, whose diving header was caught by Thibaut Courtois.
Yet Niguez couldn’t miss his next chance 10 minutes into the second half when he found himself free at the back post to divert Fernando Torres’ flick from a corner into goal.
Andreas Christensen wasted another free header on 66 minutes for Chelsea, moments before Pedro’s backheel was kept out by a combination of Oblak and Jose Gimenez on the line.
Chelsea made the breakthrough with 15 minutes remaining when Eden Hazard zipped past his marker and smashed a low cross into the box that was diverted goal-wards by centre-back Stefan Savic.
Conte’s men had a chance to take the lead and secure top spot almost immediately after drawing level, yet Morata fired straight at Oblak.
With seven minutes left Willian spurned Chelsea’s best chance to take all three points by skewing wide when the goal was gaping.