Belfast Telegraph

'Underdog' Conte is quick to start FA Cup final mind games

By Steve Simpson

Chelsea will go into the FA Cup final against Manchester United as underdogs, according to their manager Antonio Conte.

After booking their place in next month's showdown by brushing aside Southampton 2-0, the wily Italian fox used his press conference to begin the mind games against his rival Jose Mourinho by insisting that United would be the favourites at Wembley on May 19.

"This final is a game between two great teams," said Conte. "I can tell you that when we played the final last season, we arrived as favourites against Arsenal. As you know very well, we lost the final despite, in my mind, being favourites. I think that this season, we arrive not as favourites."

Despite saying that Mourinho had "senile dementia" earlier in the season, and despite the spiny Iberian porcupine responding that he would never be "suspended for match-fixing", Conte denied there was any lingering ill-feeling between the two men.

"I think with Jose, we have clarified the situation. There is not a problem between him and I. For sure, we are talking about two managers with strong character. Two winners.

"And for sure we want to try to win this trophy, the same way Manchester United wants to do this. I repeat: I have great respect for United's story (history), for Mourinho's story, and they have the same respect for Chelsea's story and my story."

Mark Hughes blamed his side's defeat on the refusal of referee Martin Atkinson to consult the video technology after Willy Caballero was bundled, along with the ball, into his own net.

"Credit to Chelsea, they're an outstanding side, and created moments that took the game in their direction," the wounded Welshman opined.

"But there's unfairness from our point of view, because of a situation where the goalkeeper's made a mistake, throwing the ball into the back of his own net. If ever there was a time for video technology to review the moment, that was it.

"It was a match-defining moment. We've got disappointment, but we have to put it behind us every very quickly. There's a huge game against Bournemouth at home that we need to win."

Belfast Telegraph

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