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Friday 28 April 2017

Antonio Conte hoping to emulate the success of Chelsea predecessor Jose Mourinho

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte hopes to enjoy as much success in west London as his predecessor
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte hopes to enjoy as much success in west London as his predecessor

Antonio Conte wants to emulate the success of his Chelsea predecessor, Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho.

Mourinho, whose United side visit Stamford Bridge in Monday's FA Cup quarter-final, won three Premier League titles, three League Cups and one FA Cup in two spells as Blues boss.

Conte is on course to claim the Premier League title in his first season and United stand in the way of a possible league and FA Cup double, an achievement which has evaded Mourinho.

And despite Mourinho being a rival, Conte asked for there to be no animosity towards the Portuguese.

"For sure, I hope in the future to try to emulate his wins here," Conte said.

"I know very well he's in the heart of Chelsea's fans. It's great this because he deserves this.

"I think Jose Mourinho wrote a good part of the history of Chelsea. It's important, always, not to forget this.

"I have great respect for him because he's a winner. I like his mentality. He has a winning mentality.

"For sure, he's one of the best in the world and, here, he did a great job. I think every single fan must respect him."

Mourinho's biggest Premier League loss was inflicted on his return to Stamford Bridge with United last October, when Conte's Blues won 4-0.

The self-proclaimed Special One afterwards rebuked Conte for geeing up the home crowd when Chelsea led by four goals. Mourinho reportedly described it as "humiliating".

Conte, who insisted on Friday he would not tone down his exuberance, had faced Mourinho only once prior to this season, in a pre-season friendly when he was boss of Bari and the United boss was at Inter Milan. Bari lost 2-0.

Mourinho has made pointed remarks about Chelsea's counter-attacking style, but Conte has a firm riposte and suggested his focus has been working on breaking down defensive teams. United may be cautious against the Blues.

"I have to tell you one thing, not only here (at Chelsea), but I never, ever, ever train for the counter-attack," Conte said.

"For me, it's important to train the other aspects: when we have the ball, when we stay almost always in our opponents' half, to find the right solution, to prepare when we are attacking.

"I think the counter-attack is an option, above all, if you have this type of player, players who are very, very fast. They know what they can do."

After making changes in earlier FA Cup rounds, Conte hinted he would select his first-choice line-up for the visit of United as Chelsea's next game, at Stoke in the Premier League, is five days later.

"I saw that, when you arrive at this level of the FA Cup, our championship stops to play FA Cup," Conte said.

"I want to make the best decision for the game against United. I don't see the necessity to rest someone."

Momentum is important to Conte, whose side are seeking a club record 13th successive home win.

"That's the idea in my mind, in my mentality. Winning helps you win," Conte added.

Conte's Chelsea lead the Premier League by 10 points, with United a further seven points adrift, yet the Italian reckons United and Manchester City have stronger squads.

He said: "For the number of players in their squad, I think so. The number of quality (players), also."

Mourinho may well moan about the fact the tie comes between legs of the Europa League tie with Rostov.

Conte believes the Football Association made concessions for United.

He said: "We could play also Sunday - or Saturday - if the federation decided it. But we are playing on Monday.

"I think that the federation showed great respect for Manchester United to play the last day available to play in the FA Cup."

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