There was no manic celebration from Antonio Conte and his players at the final whistle, polite handshakes replacing joyful punches of the air, but all in the visitors’ ranks could take pride in a job professionally done. Comfortable victory in Baku has extended Chelsea’s Champions League campaign into the new-year knockout phase. They may not appreciate it at Anfield on Saturday, when aching limbs will kick in as they heave to deal with a wounded Liverpool, but the 5,000-mile round trip to Azerbaijan has been distinctly worthwhile.
The final group game against Atlético Madrid, a daunting prospect when the section was drawn, will now merely determine the leadership of the section. “We have reached our first target: to go through into the knockout,” Conte said. “And to avoid the game with Atlético becoming decisive for us is very important. It will be a good chance now to have another rotation with my players.”