Belfast Telegraph

The curse of a title-winning manager a risk Antonio Conte is willing to take

Antonio Conte is ready to "risk" his job if Chelsea win the Premier League title.

Claudio Ranieri was sacked by Leicester on Thursday night after winning the 2015-16 title, while Jose Mourinho left Chelsea in December 2015, seven months after winning the Premier League.

Conte's Chelsea are eight points clear entering this weekend's fixtures and play at home to Swansea on Saturday.

Conte, Mourinho's permanent successor who started his job last July, said: "First of all I think that it's important to finish this season in the best way and if we are able to reach this dream - for me, for the players - I'm ready to face this risk.

"There are 13 games until the end of the season and we want to stay at the top of the table. It won't be easy, but I'm ready to take this risk (if it) means we won the league."

Conte laughed off the prospect of being sacked, as he did earlier in this season before Chelsea won 13 successive Premier League games to take pole position in the title race.

"If you remember very well I was already sacked this season with the bookmakers," Conte added.

"I was lucky to keep the right concentration and to continue the work."

Conte met with England rugby head coach Eddie Jones on Wednesday and has invited the Australian to Cobham in future. England play Italy in the RBS 6 Nations at Twickenham on Sunday.

"I wasn't an Italian spy," Conte said.

Jones has won all 15 of his Tests in charge since reviving England following their World Cup exit, while Conte has similarly rejuvenated the Blues during his first season in English football.

Chelsea finished 10th last term in a title defence which imploded under Mourinho.

The Portuguese is now boss of Manchester United, Chelsea's opponents in the FA Cup quarter-finals on March 13.

Mourinho has continually bemoaned United's congested fixture list, pointing to Chelsea's comparatively light schedule, while not acknowledging his role in the Blues being absent from European football.

And Mourinho's complaints are likely to increase with a Europa League tie with FC Rostov either side of the trip to Stamford Bridge.

Conte declined to respond to Mourinho and says it is painful watching the latter stages of the continental competitions from afar.

"The week we have to play against United in the FA Cup I'm ready to talk about this," Conte added.

"Honestly, to watch Champions League or Europa League on TV is not good for me, it's not good for the players. We want to stay there and play for something important."

Conte's focus is on a Swansea side revitalised by Paul Clement, whose side won at Liverpool last month and pushed Manchester City close.

Conte added: "Paul Clement is doing a great job with Swansea. We must pay great attention."

Swansea's Spain striker Fernando Llorente played under Conte at Juventus and was linked with a winter transfer window move to Chelsea. Llorente scored twice in the win at Anfield.

Conte wore a sheepish smile when discussing whether there had been a bid.

"This is the past. I think it's not right to talk about the past," he added.

"I know him very well, because Fernando played with me at Juventus and we won together.

"He's a really good player, good footballer. I have great admiration for him.

"It's a pleasure for me to see him tomorrow, but I wish for him the best, but after this game."


From Belfast Telegraph