Sunday 21 January 2018

Title race now an even fight between Chelsea and Spurs - Antonio Conte

Antonio Conte's Chelsea were beaten at Manchester United
Antonio Conte's Chelsea were beaten at Manchester United

Andy Hampson

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte accepted Tottenham were back in the title race after suffering a potentially damaging loss at the hands of his predecessor Jose Mourinho.

Goals from Marcus Rasford and Ander Herrera condemned the Premier League leaders to a 2-0 defeat against Mourinho's Manchester United and left them just four points ahead of Spurs with six games to play.

Chelsea led the table by 10 points at the start of April and Conte, whose side were also beaten by Crystal Palace a fortnight ago, accepted the blame for the latest slip-up.

The Italian said: "I think that the impact was very tough today, but when you play at Old Trafford it is normal to have this type of impact against a really strong team as United.

"We didn't play a good game and United deserved to win the game. They showed more desire, more ambition, more motivation to win.

"It is very simple, but in this case the fault is of the coach. It means the coach wasn't able to transfer the right concentration, desire, ambition to win this type of game.

"Against Crystal Palace we didn't deserve to lose, but today we deserved to lose the game.

"We have to think that there are six finals from now until the end. The league is open and we have a 50 per cent probability to win the league.

"We will be good to finish on top of the table and it means we deserve this. Otherwise we deserve another thing."

Conte insisted the pressure would not get to him.

He said: "The pressure is normal. I prefer to play for the title instead of don't fight for the title and stay calm. We are lucky to have the pressure.

"Last season Chelsea had no pressure - 10th place and you play calm, and you are happy.

"We must have great enthusiasm to play these last six games, with patience and a great will to fight.

"If we are able to win I think we must be proud for this, otherwise we must clap another team."

United's performance was one of their best since Mourinho took charge last summer and the Portuguese praised his players' attitude.

He said: "I think we have had very good performances - Arsenal here, Tottenham here, when we played really well.

"But today I think was a special performance because it's also a special opponent - the leaders, the way they play.

"I think we played really well, a very solid performance. We gave them double problems. We gave them problems when they had the ball because we controlled very well and we gave them problems when we recovered the ball because we were really sharp and fast and aggressive in our transitions.

"So, I am very happy with the performance. Very happy."

Mourinho insisted he took no extra satisfaction from beating his old club.

He said: "No, the satisfaction is for different reasons.

"The first reason is because with Liverpool and Manchester City victories, if we don't win today goodbye Premier League. These three points were phenomenal.

"The second reason is because it is leader. They are named Chelsea, but they could be named Arsenal, or Tottenham, or another one."

United have not lost in the league since October, but remain outside the top four.

Mourinho said: "Normally you win the title if you are 22 matches unbeaten and we are struggling to finish top four.

"Why? Everybody knows why because we lost too many points at home.

"But it's a great feeling to know that it's difficult for us to lose a match, people fight until the end."

Chelsea's preparations for the game were affected by the loss of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois with an ankle injury during the week.

Conte refused to comment on rumours the Belgian had suffered the injury playing basketball.

He said: "After a defeat it is not right to go into this situation. Courtois had an injury in the middle of the week and for this reason he wasn't available today, but I think it is right to focus on the game and not to find excuses."

Press Association

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