Wednesday 28 June 2017

Etihad experience leaves Conte even more resolved to lead Blues to 'pinnacle'

Conte: Wants Champions League Photo: Reuters / Tony O'Brien
Conte: Wants Champions League Photo: Reuters / Tony O'Brien

Dan Ludlam

Antonio Conte is missing the Champions League so much that he went to watch Manchester City's 5-3 victory over Monaco at the Etihad Stadium so that he could "feel this type of game" again.

Having won 17 of their last 20 Premier League fixtures, Chelsea can stretch their lead still further at the top of the table against West Ham tonight, but for Conte there is a big hole at the heart of his season: a competition which he calls "the pinnacle".

"For me and for my players we all miss it," Conte said. "The Champions League must be our house, for this reason we are putting our strength into making sure we are playing in it next season.

"It's a great competition for the players, the club and the manager and we want to try and stay there, to try and fight to win."

Conte won the Champions League as a player with Juventus in 1996, and is fully aware that while Chelsea remain on course for a fifth Premier League title, Europe's elite competition is a different proposition. It's one in which he wants to immerse himself again.

"I watched Manchester City v Monaco live because I wanted to feel this type of game and in the future I hope to watch these games live," Conte added.

"To see eight goals is not simple. We started our season to try to fight until the end to be in the Champions League next season - this was our target."

Chelsea are on course to surpass those objectives, but Conte is not getting carried away.

"We know there are six strong teams to fight for the Champions League places," he said.

"Two of these teams won't play in the Champions League. Our objective is to win the title, but also to make sure we are in the Champions League."

Conte smiled when it was put to him that he could be at Chelsea for 10 to 15 years.

"I thank you for your optimism," he said, before suggesting that when he does leave, his intention is to seek fresh pastures.

"In my mind, there is the will to find different experiences in different countries," said Conte.

"I think it's fantastic to find these experiences. When I was a footballer, I played only for two teams: Lecce and Juventus.

"But, honestly, in my career I wanted to go and play in different countries.

"Now I am having this great experience in England, in an amazing league.

"This is my first season away, in a new country, with a new language and new habits, and it's totally different from my past," he added.

"I started two days after finishing the Euros with Italy, and to arrive at a club, with new players, a new club, to bring your ideas, your philosophy and to change something in the habits of my players, it's not easy.

"But now, after seven months, I can tell I'm very happy of my experiences so far with Chelsea, to have this relationship with the club, with my players. I'm sure we can improve a lot in the future."

Irish Independent

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