Friday 27 April 2018

Conte: I will not forget Mourinho's insults

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte pictured at their Cobham training ground yesterday with new signing Ross Barkley, who is still working on his match fitness. Photo: Getty Images
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte pictured at their Cobham training ground yesterday with new signing Ross Barkley, who is still working on his match fitness. Photo: Getty Images

Matt Law

Antonio Conte pointed to his face as he asked, "Do I have the look of a person who regrets?" Chelsea's head coach signed off with the warning of, "I won't forget this", as he addressed his war of words with Jose Mourinho.

The row between Conte and Mourinho completely overshadowed Chelsea's FA Cup third-round draw with Norwich City and continued to dominate the build-up to the first leg of Carabao Cup semi-final against Arsenal tonight.

Mostly overlooked in the fallout of the row with Mourinho last week was the dig that Conte aimed at Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, over the Frenchman's claim that Eden Hazard dived against his team in the Premier League.

But, having labelled Wenger an "old coach" who blames referees, Conte insisted yesterday he holds no grudge against the 68-year-old, whereas his feud with Mourinho is purely personal. Asked whether he regretted anything he said about Manchester United manager Mourinho or the nature of the row, Conte said: "Do I have the look of a person who regrets? I don't think so. We both said these things and we'll see what happens in the future."

Asked whether the public fallout could damage the reputations of Chelsea and United, Conte added: "This is not a problem for the clubs. It's a problem between me and him. I stop."

The row blew up last Friday, when Conte responded to Mourinho speaking about "clowns" on the touchline by accusing the Portuguese of losing his mind.

Mourinho hit back by referencing a match-fixing scandal during Conte's time at Juventus - the Italian was cleared of any wrongdoing. It provoked Conte to describe the former Chelsea manager as a "little man" and "fake".

The Football Association has said it will not step into the row, while Conte has made it clear there is no point in the League Managers' Association trying to mediate.

"I think it's not important, (to involve) the association," said Conte. "He said serious words, using serious words and I won't forget this." Ahead of going up against Wenger for the second time in a week, Conte was given the opportunity to clarify how deep his dissatisfaction with the Arsenal manager ran.

"I made a comment to Arsene because he mentioned my player, otherwise I have respect for what every coach thinks," said Conte. "I made a comment after he mentioned Hazard. But every coach has their own opinion and we must respect it if you don't offend anyone."

Wenger used to be Mourinho's most bitter enemy. When it was put to Conte that he and his opponent tonight share a dislike of the Portuguese, he said: "I don't hate anyone."

At the weekend, Conte claimed he is ready to meet Mourinho "face to face" in a room when Chelsea next play United at Old Trafford on February 25.

But that meeting will be put back if Chelsea see off Arsenal over two legs and reach the final of the Carabao Cup.

Conte has made it clear that his priority remains securing a top-four place in the Premier League, but will signal his desire to add another winner's medal to last season's title success by naming a strong team to face Arsenal.

Conte said: "Not only for me, but for the club, for the players, it will be important to finish in the top four because it means you will play again in the Champions League.

Trophy

"But if there is the possibility to win a trophy in your season, you must try to do this."

Hazard is available again, while goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and N'Golo Kante could all start, but it is too "soon" for new signing Ross Barkley.

Barkley signed from Everton for £15m on Friday but, having been injured for most of the season, still isn't ready to appear for Chelsea.

"Tomorrow night I think is very soon, very soon for him," Conte said yesterday. "But we must be pleased because his physical condition is good, and he has started to train with us, understand our football. I think that we must be pleased, but he needs a bit of time to work on the physical and tactical aspects. His condition is good, very good."

Asked when Barkley might appear, Conte said: "I don't know, it's very difficult to say now. But at the same time I'm very positive, because the player is a good guy, he's shown great will to work, great desire to help us very soon. And I think it's very, very positive. I'm very happy to have Ross with us for the rest of the season."

© Daily Telegraph, London

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