Sunday 20 May 2018

Antonio Conte aims barb at former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho by insisting fifth place is better than 10th

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte

Matt Law

Antonio Conte has insisted Chelsea are in far better shape than when he took over from Jose Mourinho – even if the club miss out on qualifying for the Champions League.

Chelsea had finished 10th during Mourinho’s final season, when the Portuguese was sacked in December 2015, before Conte was appointed head coach in the following summer.

Having guided Chelsea to the Premier League title during his first season in charge, Conte now requires a miracle for his team to snatch a top-four place ahead of Liverpool. Chelsea have to win at Newcastle United and hope Brighton beat Jurgen Klopp’s men at Anfield.

But with an FA Cup final still to look forward to against Mourinho’s Manchester United, Conte insists his second and, in all likelihood, final season at Chelsea has not been a write off.

Conte, who last summer said he did not want a “Mourinho season”, said: “Don't forget two years ago, Chelsea ended the season 10th and not in the FA Cup final, not in the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup and they were eliminated in the last-16 against PSG in the Champions League. It can happen.

“You must know that there is this possibility, because you play in a strong league. For this reason, you have to know this and prepare in the right way. There are six top teams at the start of the season ready to fight for a place in the Champions League. It can happen. In the past, it happened the same.”

Asked if Chelsea are now in a better place than when he arrived, Conte added: “For sure, we worked two years and worked very hard to try to build something, to create a base.

“I think you remember. Last season after a 10th place we won the league. It was difficult. We worked very hard, but we won. After a 10th place finish. Now, probably, you can finish fifth and start with a bit of an advantage compared to when you finish 10th.”

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