Nemanja Matic turned in a hugely impressive performance in a Manchester United shirt as they fell to a 2-1 defeat to Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup - but it is a performance that will hurt Chelsea fans and their manager Antonio Conte. "Old Trafford is waiting for us and I think Old Trafford has a reason to be behind us", he said.
"Matic knows very well what I think about him - the importance for me about this player, who is a really good player, a top player, very important for our team", Conte said.
Chelsea have signed Tiemoue Bakayoko as a replacement, although the France worldwide will miss the start of the season through injury.
"He did well as Chelsea won the league past year, but he didn't go back to the level of 2014/15 and Cesc Fabregas was playing a lot more in the second half of last season".
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"You saw that with Chelsea last year - him and Kante were magnificent last year and that allowed Hazard, Fabregas, whoever else was playing that bit of freedom, and I'm hoping he'll do that for United - a bit of freedom for Pogba, Martial, Lingard, Mkhitaryan - these players really need to step up this year".
"It won't be easy".
"Bakayoko is a good signing for us", Conte said in further quotes published by the London Evening Standard ahead of the new campaign.
With the rest of his players showing the strain in some lacklustre preseason outings - Conte admits that Matic's experience will be missed amid the pressure of defending the title. "It's a great challenge for us to try and retain the title, but we are working hard". "He needs to play regularly, he's a player I trust a lot".
" I think the [Matic] sale at this moment in time, with that Chelsea squad, could cost them the league".