Belfast Telegraph

Conte hits back as Jamie Redknapp accuses Blues of ‘crime against football’

Chelsea’s approach to playing runaway Premier League leaders City has been criticised.

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte accused Jamie Redknapp of being “stupid” after the television pundit labelled the reigning Premier League champions’ tactics at Manchester City “a crime against football”.

The Blues failed to register a single shot on target in their 1-0 loss at the Etihad Stadium, where City completed 902 passes, the most any team has managed in a Premier League game since statisticians Opta began counting in 2003-04.

Chelsea’s passive style was heavily criticised by Gary Neville, who called their performance “unacceptable”, while fellow Sky Sports pundit Redknapp also piled in by suggesting Conte’s tactics were “anti-football” and “a crime against football”.

When the ex-Liverpool and Tottenham midfielder’s comments were put to Conte, the Italian replied: “I think in this moment you have to accept every critic, but I am not so stupid to play against Manchester City (so) open and to lose 3-0 or 4-0.

“If I remember well, a few days ago, Arsenal played twice against them and then you criticise a lot (Arsenal manager Arsene) Wenger because they concede three goals in only 30 minutes.

“I think that the pundit has to use the head to understand when you speak about tactics because I think that you must have knowledge to speak about tactics and not only to speak in a stupid way.”

Bernardo Silva’s second-half winner meant Chelsea fell to a fourth successive away defeat in all competitions, and the Premier League title holders now trail champions-elect City by a whopping 25 points.

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Pep Guardiola admits his team have surpassed expectations (Nick Potts/PA)

“I think that they showed the difference between them and us in this moment – 25 points is a big gap,” Conte added.

“I think that we can have regret for the other games, but not for this because I think the effort of the players was an important effort.

“When you play against Manchester City, against this type of team, they are showing fantastic quality, but at the same time fantastic mentality.

“When you match quality and mentality I think that you become unstoppable.”

City now require just four more Premier League victories to guarantee their first league title under Pep Guardiola, who admits his team have surpassed expectations for where he thought they would be after 29 games of the season.

Asked whether he believed before the campaign that City could be in such a commanding position now, Guardiola said: “Before? No way. No way, no. Who could believe it?

“I think if you ask the players, the players neither. In terms of not just the results but the way we played.

“(On Sunday it) was another demonstration – same level, same desire as at Stamford Bridge (where City won 1-0).

“That is what pleases me the most. To have the distance to many teams now – 25 to Chelsea, 33 to Arsenal, 20 to Tottenham, in March, is a lot.

“Tottenham, Liverpool and (Manchester) United they made good results, a good pace, but we have been so good.”

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