Belfast Telegraph

Conte only focused on Newcastle

Chelsea hope to capitalise on any slip up from Liverpool.

Antonio Conte is focused only on winning the final game of the Premier League season at Newcastle, not the FA Cup final, so Chelsea can capitalise on any slip up from Liverpool.

The fifth-placed Blues, champions last season, must win at St James’ Park and hope Brighton can win at Anfield to have any hope of beating the Champions League finalists to a place in Europe’s elite club competition next season.

The top-four bid may be out of their hands, but Conte insisted he would select his team with only victory over the Magpies in mind, not next Saturday’s Wembley date with Manchester United.

“I want to win and try and get the three points,” Conte said.

“If someone slips in the last game, you must be ready. And only by getting three points (will you be ready).

“So, for this reason, every decision I make will be to try to win.”

The impact of last Sunday’s win over Liverpool and Wednesday’s draw with Huddersfield may prompt changes, while goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois should return following a back injury.

“Probably I can change something, but not because I’m thinking about the FA Cup final,” Conte added.

“Only because, maybe, some may be tired after two tough games in three days.”

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Chelsea won the Premier League in Antonio Conte's first season as head coach

Conte guided Chelsea to the title in his first season in charge, but his future has been shrouded in uncertainty all campaign.

The Italian signed a new contract, on improved terms, last July, but it was not an extension to the deal which runs until June 2019.

And many expect Conte to depart this summer, even if the Blues lift the FA Cup for his second trophy as boss.

Conte on Friday was adamant Chelsea’s season could not be compared with the campaign prior to his arrival, which he last summer termed the ‘Mourinho season’. The Blues finished 10th under interim boss Guus Hiddink after imploding under Jose Mourinho before Christmas.

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Antonio Conte says he relishes being outside his comfort zone

Conte says he relishes the challenges of the job, which has left him at times questioning the Chelsea hierarchy publicly.

“If you want to stay the same level as the previous year, you can stay in a comfort zone,” he said.

“But I’m not that type of person. I don’t like comfort zones.

“This season I learned that this league is very tough. But I knew this.

“I think I had confirmation that, if you want to be competitive in this league, you must work very, very hard on different aspects.”

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