English Premiership

Conte blasts schedule as Chelsea face crucial week

2017-04-23 15:08
Antonio Conte (Getty Images)

London - Antonio Conte claims Chelsea have been harshly treated by the Premier League fixture planners as the leaders try to survive a "crucial week" in the title race.

Conte's side beat Tottenham 4-2 in a thrilling FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Saturday to book a final date with Arsenal or Manchester City.

The Blues were under the cosh for long periods, but Willian's brace and superb late goals from Eden Hazard and Nemanja Matic ensured Chelsea remain on course for the double.

To achieve that lofty ambition, Chelsea need to crush Tottenham's dreams again as the north Londoners are just four points behind in the title race.

But Conte fears Chelsea's chances of holding off Tottenham have been hindered by the way the fixtures fall this week.

On Tuesday, Chelsea host Southampton, who will be refreshed after 10 days rest, while Tottenham have an extra day to recover before travelling to Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

Conte tried to plan ahead for the midweek schedule by leaving Hazard and Diego Costa on the bench for the first hour at Wembley

And with Palace having to play at Liverpool on Sunday before taking on Tottenham, Conte is concerned Mauricio Pochettino's team will be able to make their extra rest pay off.

"This week is crucial for us because in this week Tottenham have the advantage," Conte said.

"You must try to have balance with the fixtures and put both teams in the best situation to fight.

"Sometimes it's very difficult to understand the fixtures, but we have to answer on the pitch."

While Conte tries to engender an us against the world mentality in his players with his fixture complaints, the Italian acknowledged beating Tottenham should give Chelsea valuable momentum in the title fight.

"We have to exploit the momentum for sure. It is really important to win against a team fighting with you for the title," he said.

"We have only two days to rest and recover. Southampton is a very tough game and we must know Tottenham want to fight until the end to fight for the title."

Asked if he was concerned about the potential damage to Chelsea's morale if his selection gamble had backfired on Saturday, Conte said: "You have to take this responsibility.

"You must involve the players in your plan, and take this risk.

"You hope the decision is good. For sure it's not easy to decide to start without two really important players."

Tottenham's latest failure on the big occasion raised renewed questions about a talented team's ability to turn potential into prizes.

Pochettino's side also lost to Chelsea at Wembley in the 2015 League Cup final and flopped at the national stadium while playing their Champions League matches there this season.

"I can't change the past. I know the history but I believe this is an exciting team," Pochettino said.

"Two years ago it was difficult to imagine we could fight for the Premier League but it is a reality."

Pochettino did his best to accentuate the positives of a enterprising display and refused to acknowledge a lack of killer instinct had derailed his side.

"It's difficult to explain. We were unlucky. I feel proud of my players," he said.

"We gave all we had. I have nothing (negative) to say."

Urging his players to shake off their Wembley heartache, Pochettino wants Spurs to keep Chelsea under pressure in the league.

"It's true the players are disappointed but we will move on," he said.

"We will work on the training ground to focus on the next game against Palace.

"If you play like we did today then you can't be worried. we gave our best.

"The gap is four points and we will try to catch up to them.

"We must try to be calm and give support to our players. C'mon, lets try to win the next game."


What To Read Next


Read News24’s Comments Policy

Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

Saturday, 31 March 2018
Crystal Palace v Liverpool, Selhurst Park 13:30
West Ham United v Southampton, London Stadium 16:00
Manchester United v Swansea City, Old Trafford 16:00
Newcastle United v Huddersfield Town, St. James' Park 16:00
Brighton & Hove Albion v Leicester City, The American Express Community Stadium 16:00
West Bromwich Albion v Burnley, The Hawthorns 16:00
Watford v AFC Bournemouth, Vicarage Road Stadium 16:00
Everton v Manchester City, Goodison Park 18:30
Sunday, 01 April 2018
Arsenal v Stoke City, Emirates Stadium 14:30
Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur, Stamford Bridge 17:00
Saturday, 07 April 2018
Everton v Liverpool, Goodison Park 13:30
Stoke City v Tottenham Hotspur, Bet365 Stadium 16:00
Leicester City v Newcastle United, King Power Stadium 16:00
Brighton & Hove Albion v Huddersfield Town, The American Express Community Stadium 16:00
West Bromwich Albion v Swansea City, The Hawthorns 16:00
Watford v Burnley, Vicarage Road Stadium 16:00
AFC Bournemouth v Crystal Palace, Vitality Stadium 16:00
Manchester City v Manchester United, Etihad Stadium 18:30
Team P W PTS
Previous Results

Date Home Team Result Away Team

Who will claim the Premier League title at the end of the 2017/18 season?

Love 2 Meet
English Premiership flutter

Take Sport24's "expert" tips at your peril...


The 2017/18 Absa Premiership season is under way. Can Bidvest Wits defend their title? Will Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs or Orlando Pirates emerge victorious? Or will the bookies' favourites, Mamelodi Sundowns, taste success for a record eighth time? Stay glued to Sport24 to find out!

Latest blogs

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.