Belfast Telegraph

There's no chance I would trade in Costa for Lukaku, maintains Conte

 

By Matt McGeechan

Antonio Conte insists he would not swap Diego Costa for Romelu Lukaku, despite continued speculation Everton's Belgian hitman could return to Chelsea this summer.

Chelsea face Everton at Goodison Park tomorrow with the chance to rubber-stamp Champions League qualification and edge ever closer to the Premier League title.

Everton striker Lukaku tops the Premier League scoring charts with 24 goals, while Chelsea talisman Costa has struck 19 times in league action.

Chelsea boss Conte remained coy about comparisons between the two prolific forwards, but admitted the Blues must pay heed to Lukaku's powers tomorrow.

Asked if he would rather have Costa or Lukaku, Conte replied: "As I've said before, for me my players are the best in the world.

"I wouldn't change my players with any other players.

"I think that Lukaku for sure is a really good player, he's scoring a lot of goals this season.

"You have to pay him great attention but it's always the same, we study the opponent and we try to find the best solution to stop them, about single players and about the team.

"Yes, we must pay great attention to Lukaku, but also Everton's other players. They have a lot of good players with good technique."

Chelsea top the league table by four points with five matches to play, but Conte has rejected suggestions the Blues face an easier run-in than title rivals Tottenham.

The former Juventus and Italy coach also called on Premier League organisers to even out the final leg of future title battles.

Conte believes the Premier League ought to alter fixtures at the last minute in future to ensure title rivals' matches kick off simultaneously.

Asked if Chelsea have an easier run to the end of the season than second-placed Tottenham, Conte said: "I don't think so. I think that in this part of the season each game is very tough for many different reasons.

"You have a lot of pressure, you know you have to win. For sure when you have to play with this target, it's not simple, it's not easy. But not only for us, also for Tottenham.

"But we are ready, and we have worked hard to arrive here to fight for the title. And for this reason we want to reach this target with all our strength.

"We have to do our job with the right pressure but at the same time to enjoy it.

"I think it's not an advantage for us to play before Tottenham this weekend."

Everton boss Ronald Koeman admits he is still unsure where striker Lukaku will be playing next season.

Koeman said: "We like to keep the best players but we know that it is difficult. I don't know if it is possible to keep them at the moment.

"Then we have to analyse the team, (to see) what we need to improve for next season. I think we need, offensive-wise, more players who score more goals because the difference between Lukaku and the rest of the players is too big."

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