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Marcel Desailly: Chelsea should still be hopeful of title tilt

Desailly: Chelsea should still be hopeful of title tilt

04/12/2017 at 19:28Updated 05/12/2017 at 16:43

Former France and Chelsea defender Marcel Desailly spoke to Eurosport’s Tom Bennett about the World Cup, whether England or France should be considered favourites, and how Chelsea’s Premier League title hopes aren’t over yet.

'Chelsea will still be hopeful of catching Manchester City'

Antonio Conte might change one or two for the game against Atletico Madrid, but not too much. To build up the confidence for the club it’s important to win games, especially against major teams like Atletico. It’s always good to win these sort of games, especially at home, to create a positive mood.

Chelsea will be happy that they’ve already qualified, but they’ll definitely have an eye on the other groups. If they finish second and have to play against Paris Saint-Germain or Barcelona in the next round then Conte will not be happy.

Conte knows about football, he’ll be patient. What Manchester City are showing at the moment might not be the same come February. Pep Guardiola has done very well to communicate his complicated theories of the game with his players, but how will he keep them focused for the whole season? Players like David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne are playing together brilliantly, but their role is demanding and we don’t know if physically they will be able to maintain that level. That’s why Chelsea, who have only recently settled down after changing the core of their team, will still be hopeful.

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It’s easy to forget that Diego Costa was their player just months ago. You don’t replace a player of that quality easily and it’s taken them a bit of time to recover from the loss of someone who was so integral to their style of play. But with Alvaro Morata firing now and Eden Hazard back to his very best, Chelsea will have faith that the second half of the season could go their way.

The fallout with David Luiz is a big blow, even though it has meant Chelsea have brought through some new players into the first team – Christensen has been superb. It’s a blow because he’s not just an important defender but a leader who the fans love.

Thankfully Chelsea’s success doesn’t hinge on any one individual. It’s more down to how Conte could best utilise his players, how he can free up the wing-backs and what space he can manufacture for the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Willian, Pedro and Hazard to work in. These sort of players are regularly making the difference for Chelsea, and that collective improvement of late compensates for the loss of an individual like Luiz

'France have better players than England... but neither should anticipate World Cup glory'

The World Cup excitement is real now we know the groups, but I’ll be keeping an eye on Morocco. They are very hard to play against, especially now my friend Herve Renard is their coach. They could be one to cause a few upsets.

But we don’t have many major clashes, as the draw was relatively kind to the bigger nations. There are no standout matches, apart from Spain v Portugal and Belgium v England being in the same group, and the tournament really feels like it’s missing Italy and the Dutch.

World Cup

I think we can essentially wait for the second round as we can predict most of the teams who will be there. But the big teams will have to keep their concentration. We don’t know much about the minnows, but there will be some good teams amongst them – there has to be if they managed to qualify. We don’t know much about Costa Rica or Panama or Iran or even Senegal – we don’t know the level that they’re going to come in at yet.

England will be happy about their group. They will have to be careful against Tunisia and Panama, who will be relatively unknown to them and will certainly lift their level at the tournament, but – other than Belgium – they will be happy.

This current generation of England players are good, but they are not a team who should anticipate winning the World Cup. If they make it through to the knockout stages then maybe you could say that England are potentially one of the teams who could win.

I would say France are in a similar position to England. We have a higher potential than England and have a more talented group of players, but we are still building, we should not be complacent and think we’re one of the favourites. If France reach the quarterfinal then you never know.

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Marcel Desailly was speaking at an event to celebrate the end of the UEFA Champions League group stage, where he and Nissan put football fans through the ultimate challenge.