- Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has hit back at Jose Mourinho's claim that only
Manchester United are willing to publicly declare they can win the Premier
On the eve of the new campaign, Mourinho
has set his sights on the English title and poured scorn on the more cautious
attitudes of the managers of United's title rivals.
Conte, in his first season with Chelsea,
new Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, Arsenal chief Arsene Wenger and
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp must have been prominent in Mourinho's thoughts
when he made the jibe.
But few are as outspoken as the
spotlight-hogging Mourinho, who is in his first season at Old Trafford after
being sacked by Chelsea in December, and Conte made it clear he wasn't fazed by
the United manager's brash taunts.
"Other things scare me, not to say if
I will win or lose in football," Conte, who will lead Chelsea in the
league for the first time against West Ham United on Monday, said.
"In this league it is very tough. At
the moment six or seven teams can fight to win the title.
"Chelsea is a great team and we must
work hard to be in that group."
After finishing 10th at the end of a
miserable campaign last season, Conte has arrived at Stamford Bridge to find a
squad of fragile egos looking for inspiration and leadership following the
breakdown of their relationship with Mourinho.
One of the main malcontents during the
final days of the Mourinho era was Diego Costa and the Spain striker was
repeatedly linked with a move back to his old club Atletico Madrid during the
Conte has so far kept hold of the volatile
forward, believing Costa is a kindred spirit who can be a key figure if his
passion is harnessed in the right way.
Challenging Costa, whose goals fired
Chelsea to the title two seasons ago, to improve in all areas, Conte said:
"I don't like to speak about single players, but this is an exception.
Diego Costa is a great player.
"I know he is fantastic finisher, a
fantastic player. But I think Diego can improve a lot. I hope for this. I try
to improve all my players.
"I'm seeing a good attitude from Diego
to work and improve in different situations. Diego can give a lot to this team.
"I like the spirit of Diego. He always
shows a great passion. I'm the same. I have great passion for football.
"He doesn't want to lose. We want this
passion in the team. It's important. It helps you to overcome
Asked if he had set Costa a 20-goal target
for the season, Conte said: "Why 20? not 30! I never ask this of my
"I ask him and all the players for a
great attitude. I demand this from him. Then the goals will follow I'm sure.
"For me he is an important player. He
played a fantastic season two years ago when Chelsea won the title. I'm happy
he stayed here."