Sunday 22 July 2018

Conte fired up for more touchline animation

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte

Dominic Fifield

Antonio Conte's subdued mood on the touchline during Chelsea's defeat at Watford earned him a rebuke from his father and the Italian is expected to be back to his excitable best in his technical area for today's key trip to Manchester United.

Conte will renew hostilities with José Mourinho at Old Trafford, with the catalyst for their recent war of words having apparently been Conte's interpretation of Mourinho's criticisms of managers who "behave as a clown" on the touchline as a personal attack.

The pair exchanged barbs at the start of the year and, with Conte still livid at Mourinho's reference to a four-month ban for failing to report alleged match-fixing, there has been no reconciliation between the men in the period since.

The managers opted against addressing the antipathy before this game, but Conte will be as animated as ever on the touchline as he seeks to inspire his team.

"A lot of the time I start the game with the idea to stay sitting down and try to enjoy it, but it's not the same for me and especially my players, or for the fans," said Conte. "My wife and daughter start to be worried when they don't see me very active because that means I'm not happy.

"Even my father does. He watched the game against Watford and phoned me up afterwards to say: 'I didn't see you with the right anger, with the right passion. You finished the game with a voice, and that's not for you, this.' Maybe in the future, when I become older, I'll have to try and stay calmer and live the game in a more relaxed way. But I think this is my strength. To stay on the touchline and push my players, to push myself."

Conte believes the passion stems from his time watching his father coaching, running and even being the groundsman at the amateur club Juventina in Lecce, and it has been a trademark of his managerial style wherever he has worked.

Mourinho had criticised the manic reaction of his successor at Stamford Bridge to Chelsea's 4-0 victory over United back in October 2016, on his first return to the club since his sacking the previous year.

Yet the Italian will have no qualms about repeating such celebrations if his team win and claimed he is oblivious to the actions of those around him while he is so focused on the game. "In that moment [in the technical area], I'm alone," he said. "I don't see what happens on the other bench or what the other manager does. I'm alone and watching my players, the game . . . my focus is only on the pitch.

"I live the game with my players. I want my players to feel this, that I stay with them and am ready to suffer and enjoy with them. My passion must always be the same, if we play against an important team or against another team who are less important."

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