Sunday 16 December 2018

'I'm not stupid' - Antonio Conte suggests Chelsea are the victims of a fixture conspiracy

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte

Matt McGeehan

Antonio Conte has suggested there is a fixture conspiracy against his Chelsea side.

Chelsea play Newcastle at 12.30 on Saturday, having beaten Swansea 1-0 on Wednesday, 24 hours after the Magpies drew 2-2 at West Brom.

Conte has previously complained about Chelsea's fixture schedule in relation to matches with Manchester City, Watford and Liverpool following European games. And the Italian expressed his frustrations again on Friday.

"Now it's very difficult to think this is a coincidence," Conte said.

"This is the fourth time. I'm not stupid, if someone wants to joke with me I'm not the right person to joke (with).

"Once it can happen. Twice it can happen. The third time, you start to be perplexed. In only 14 games (it has happened) four times.

"Every team has this type of situation. But from start of the season, I don't know, I see only Chelsea to have this type of situation.

"I don't want advantages. If we have to play every two days, I'm ready. But we need to have the same rest as our opponents, then we see what happens.

"Is it difficult to do this? I don't think so. It is a strange coincidence."

Fixture frustrations are nothing new, with Jose Mourinho regularly making complaints while Chelsea and Manchester United boss.

Chelsea and Conte could be victims of their own success last season, when they won the title after not featuring in Europe. It means the broadcasters want the Blues in live match slots.

The Premier League, meanwhile, could argue the earlier kick-off against Newcastle gives Chelsea a few additional hours' rest and preparation for Tuesday's Champions League clash with Atletico Madrid.

Chelsea have previously made representations to the Premier League over the issue after Conte's complaints.

The Italian described the schedule which required his side to play at Liverpool last Saturday, after a Wednesday night match in Azerbaijan as "incredible".

"I'm trying to protect my club, I'm trying to protect my players and I'm trying to protect the fans and maybe also the league," he added.

Conte says he will accept a Football Association charge of misconduct following his dismissal against Swansea.

The Italian apologised to referee Neil Swarbrick and fourth official Lee Mason after his first-half dismissal against Swansea.

He was charged on Thursday and can expect a fine, which, he joked, means he will no longer be able to buy his wife, Elisabetta, a birthday present.

Conte said: "My wife is angry. It is her birthday in two days and I said to her for this reason I will not buy a gift."

Chelsea will again be without defender David Luiz for the visit of Newcastle due to a knee injury.

Asked if he could guarantee there would be no player sales in the winter transfer window, Conte refused to make any promises, which will not quell speculation linking Luiz to Real Madrid.

"This moment is very early to talk about this topic," Conte said.

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