Belfast Telegraph

Consistency is the key in championship marathon, says Chelsea boss Antonio Conte

Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte says champions require consistency and composure as the Blues prepare to host Tottenham for the first time since ending their rivals' Premier League title bid.

Mauricio Pochettino's team dropped points in four of the eight games prior to the May 2 trip to Stamford Bridge, where Spurs had not won in 26 years.

Conte says Spurs' loss of composure at Chelsea, when they conceded a two-goal lead and handed Leicester the Premier League title in a bad-tempered contest, was not the sole reason for their title miss.

But his comments were as much a message to his Chelsea side than a comment on Spurs' implosion.

"For sure, you don't lose a championship in one game," Conte said.

"In my experience you lose or win a championship over many games. Precisely 38.

"I always told that to my players. Don't find an excuse and fight, because you lose or you win for 38 league games, not for one game."

Chelsea are Premier League leaders entering this weekend's fixtures after winning six straight games, scoring 17 goals without reply. Tottenham are unbeaten this season and have a point to prove on Saturday evening.

The Blues finished 10th in their woeful title defence last season but had a say in the championship against Spurs in a game which featured 12 yellow cards - nine for Spurs. Both clubs were fined by the Football Association for failing to control their players.

Additionally Spurs midfielder Mousa Dembele was retrospectively banned for six matches, missing the start of this season, for an apparent eye gouge on Chelsea striker Diego Costa.

Conte told Chelsea to channel their emotions in the London derby, just as he does as an animated presence in the technical area.

"It's right to show your passion, but in the right way, not in a bad way," he said.

"I want my players to play with great intensity, with great passion, but always in the right way."

After Eden Hazard's intervention earned the draw, captain John Terry - now unavailable again through injury - wrote "not on my watch" on Instagram.

It was a reference to Spurs' long wait for a win at Chelsea, since Gary Lineker's winner in February 1990. But Conte is not interested in that statistic.

"I know this, but I don't like the stats, because the stats are old," the Italian said.

"You have to live the moment. Now, if you speak about our unbeaten run, I can reply that in this championship Tottenham are unbeaten.

"It's important to focus on the present. The present now is more important than the past."

Conte has history with Pochettino. Although they never met as players, they did so when the Argentinian hosted Conte as Italy head coach in February 2015 at Spurs' training base.

He spoke with Pochettino and Spurs' then technical director Franco Baldini in a week which also saw him visit Sam Allardyce's West Ham and Jose Mourinho's Chelsea.

"It was a fantastic work trip," Conte added.

Ideas were shared, but it was not full disclosure.

"When there is a discussion between two managers, you talk about football, but not completely about your ideas," Conte added.

"You can talk about 30, 35 per cent of your ideas. The other 65 (per cent) of your ideas you keep for yourself."

Since losses to Liverpool and Arsenal, Conte has switched to a 3-4-3 formation which has proved beneficial in attack and defence.

Terry has scarcely featured - one substitute appearance in the Premier League and one start in the EFL Cup loss at West Ham - after initially being absent with an ankle problem.

Now Terry, 36 next month, is out for "two, three weeks, maybe", Conte says, with a buttock problem.

Given his lack of game time, Terry played 70 minutes for Chelsea's development squad in Monday afternoon's 3-2 win over Southampton.

"I'm not sure if the injury was in the under-23 game or the day after," Conte said.

One player who has benefited from Conte's arrival more than most is Victor Moses, who has come in from obscurity and repeated loans under Mourinho to thrive as a right wing-back.

Barcelona are reportedly interested, but Conte told Moses to focus on the here and now.

"I don't want to think that my players see 'so long' (into the future)," Conte added.


From Belfast Telegraph