Belfast Telegraph

World Cup 2018

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I can't get distracted by speculation over my Chelsea future, says Conte

 

By Matt McGeehan

Antonio Conte reiterated his focus is on the immediate future and today's FA Cup final rather than ongoing speculation over his future as Chelsea head coach.

A fifth-placed finish in the Premier League, missing out on Champions League qualification, came as part of a season of discontent for Conte, who could still finish the campaign with a trophy if the Blues beat Manchester United at Wembley.

Conte last year won the Premier League title in his first season and signed a new contract, but not an extension to the deal which runs until June 2019.

And speculation has been rife that owner Roman Abramovich is preparing to make a managerial change this summer. If so, the Wembley date would be Conte's last as boss.

"I can say for sure this will be my last match this season," Conte said. "For me and my players it will be the last game. Then, as you know, I have a contract and I'm committed to the club."

Asked about the prospect of a summer of change, Conte evaded the question.

"I don't know," he said. "We must be focused. This game is very important because we have in a difficult season (the chance) to finish with a trophy.

"It's always important for the players, coach, manager, for our fans, for the club, to finish the season with a trophy.

"We're focused. We have to try to do everything to win."

Conte faces his immediate predecessor as permanent Chelsea boss in Jose Mourinho.

The pair have had a feisty relationship and in January had a running feud, exchanging verbal barbs which increased in ferocity until a truce was brokered at Old Trafford in February.

Conte said: "It is not important what happened. There is a relationship. I will shake his hand and both of us will think of the game."

This is the second successive FA Cup final for Chelsea and Conte.

The Blues lost to Arsenal 12 months ago, missing out on the double, and Conte recalls the game well, describing it as "strange".

He added: "We deserve to have this chance, to win an important trophy. We have to fight against a really good team and we want to fight, want to try to win the game, to lift the trophy."

Conte remained coy on his team selection, refusing to divulge who would start in goal.

Thibaut Courtois is his usual first choice, but Willy Caballero has played in the cup so far this season.

Conte said: "I don't want to give you the starting XI. Tomorrow you will see. We have only Emerson (Palmieri) out. And then no news about injuries."

Belfast Telegraph

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