Sunday 15 September 2019

Antonio Conte: Tottenham do not need to win title for a "great" season

Antonio Conte's Chelsea are favourites for the title
Antonio Conte's Chelsea are favourites for the title

Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte reckons Tottenham can celebrate a great season without winning a Premier League title which is a "normal" achievement for the Blues.

The Blues, champions in 2014-15 but 10th behind Leicester last term, lost to Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Their lead at the top of the table was cut to seven points from Spurs with nine games to play.

Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham on Wednesday night go to Swansea, hoping to win and that the title race can be reignited with defeat for Conte's Chelsea against Manchester City at Stamford Bridge.

Conte said on Tuesday: "The difference between Chelsea and Tottenham is this: if you stay in Chelsea, if you win it's normal.

"If you stay in Tottenham, if you win it's great, but if you lose... it's not a disaster, no.

"It's not a disaster, because you find a lot of situations to explain a good season.

"In this season, us and Tottenham stay in the same level. Chelsea were underdogs at the start of the season, but now we are top and we want to keep this position."

Spurs last won the championship 56 years ago in 1961.

Chelsea have won the Premier League four times in the last 12 years after ending a 50-year quest in 2004-05.

City, fourth and 11 points adrift of the Blues, cannot be discounted either if they win at Chelsea, Conte says.

"You have to put also Manchester City in this run. It's important to see the result tomorrow," the Italian added.

For a man who says he does not indulge in mind games, it was an intriguing intervention.

City boss Pep Guardiola had recently anointed Chelsea champions - something then laughed off by Conte, who maintains the title race is not over.

"It's normal with 27 points available that anything can happen in the league," Conte added.

"We need 21 points to win the league mathematically. I think we are in a really good position."

Conte was sincere in telling his players to enjoy the title run-in; no-one expected Chelsea to challenge this term after last year's implosion, he says.

"This run must give you enjoyment," he added.

"It must make you proud to be in this run. Don't forget nobody thought Chelsea, in this season, would fight for the title.

"We know there are many teams that want to win the league.

"I hope that who wins this league will deserve to win the league."

The defeat to Palace has not unduly concerned Conte, who will not be complacent.

He again recalled when, as a player, his Juventus side allowed a seven-point lead slip in the closing weeks of the season and Lazio won Serie A.

His Juve team, when he was boss, overturned a similar deficit to overhaul AC Milan.

Conte suggested there is a greater chance of such a turnaround in the Premier League.

He said: "The competition wasn't so tough like in England. Here, in every game, you must think that anything can happen if you don't face the game in the right way.

"But not only this: against Crystal Palace we played a good game with great commitment and great concentration, but we still lost."

Conte defended Diego Costa, the striker who has four goals in 12 appearances since the turn of the year and missed a good chance to equalise against Palace.

He said: "I'm not concerned about this. I believe in him. He's a really great player."

And the Italian insisted there would be no bad blood between David Luiz and Sergio Aguero, despite admitting that the Chelsea defender still requires treatment to manage a knee injury sustained in a tackle by the City striker in December.

Chelsea's 3-1 win at the Etihad Stadium ended in acrimony as City striker Aguero caught Chelsea defender Luiz on the knee, sparking a touchline melee.

Aguero and Fernandinho were sent off, the latter for pushing Cesc Fabregas over the advertising hoardings, and the clubs were punished by the Football Association.

Tuesday marked a year to the day since Conte's appointment on a three-year contract was announced.

"The time fly," he said.

"It's great to stay here, above all to talk about to win the league. It wasn't sure one year ago."

PA Media

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