ON GUARD

Conte warns Chelsea against com­pla­cency

New Straits Times - - Sport -

LIVER­POOL

AN­TO­NIO Conte warned Chelsea not to take the Premier League ti­tle for granted af­ter the lead­ers cleared a ma­jor hur­dle with a 3-0 win at Ever­ton.

Conte’s side con­sol­i­dated their po­si­tion on top of the table thanks to a steely dis­play at Good­i­son Park on Sun­day, but sec­ond placed Tot­ten­ham re­main hot on their heels.

Pe­dro’s bril­liant strike and goals from Gary Cahill and Wil­lian se­cured Chelsea’s fourth win in their last five league games, spark­ing ju­bi­lant cel­e­bra­tions from Conte and his play­ers.

Ca­vort­ing in front of Chelsea’s trav­el­ling fans, Conte had the look of a man who felt his team had just de­liv­ered a de­ci­sive blow in the ti­tle race.

But while the Blues made their way back to Lon­don, Tot­ten­ham were se­cur­ing a cru­cial vic­tory over Arse­nal that keeps them firmly in the hunt.

With four games re­main­ing, Chelsea have a four point ad­van­tage over Tot­ten­ham and Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino’s side can tem­po­rar­ily trim that gap to one point if they win at West Ham on Fri­day, be­fore the lead­ers host Mid­dles­brough on Mon­day.

Conte knows it would only take one slip to give Tot­ten­ham real hope of over­haul­ing them and he cau­tioned his play­ers against think­ing the race is over, even if they do have an eas­ier run-in than Spurs.

“It is a great win but at this part of the sea­son ev­ery win is a great win for us,” he said.

“For this rea­son we must cel­e­brate in the right way, with my play­ers, with the staff, with our fans.

“We have to have great en­thu­si­asm and great pa­tience be­cause we are hav­ing a great sea­son but to be­come a fan­tas­tic sea­son we must win (the ti­tle).

“The mes­sage to the play­ers was not words. Only hugs and en­thu­si­asm.

“Now it’s im­por­tant for us to pre­pare the right way for the next game. If we don’t win against Mid­dles­brough then you lose this great win.”

Re­cent de­feats against Crys­tal Palace and Manch­ester United had the crit­ics ques­tion­ing whether Chelsea were set to stum­ble with the ti­tle within touch­ing dis­tance.

But they have re­cov­ered im­pres­sively, with last week­end’s FA Cup semi-fi­nal win against Tot­ten­ham fol­lowed by league vic­to­ries over Southamp­ton and Ever­ton.

On paper Chelsea ap­pear to have a smooth path to the ti­tle as, fol­low­ing the clash with lowly Mid­dles­brough they face West Bromwich Al­bion, Wat­ford and rel­e­gated Sun­der­land.

Conte tried his best not to look too far ahead, but even the cau­tious Ital­ian couldn’t com­pletely hide his joy at a re­sult that moved Chelsea a step closer to be­ing crowned cham­pi­ons in his first sea­son.

“For sure it’s a great re­sult for us. To win at Ever­ton is not easy. My play­ers showed me great pa­tience to wait for the right mo­ment to hit,” Conte said.

“It was im­por­tant to keep the clean-sheet af­ter a few games with­out one. That’s good for our con­fi­dence.

“We fin­ished a cru­cial week very well. We all know there is this part of the sea­son that is more im­por­tant.

“We are hav­ing a fan­tas­tic sea­son, but we must be calm. I don’t know how close we are to the ti­tle.”

Af­ter win­ning their last eight home league games, Ever­ton were by far the strong­est op­po­nents left on Chelsea’s sched­ule and for 60 min­utes they lived up to that billing.

In the end, they crum­bled un­der the pres­sure of Chelsea’s re­lent­less prob­ing and Ever­ton man­ager Ron­ald Koe­man ad­mit­ted the Blues have the look of cham­pi­ons.

Asked if Chelsea have ti­tle qual­ity, Koe­man said: “Yes, es­pe­cially in the last 30 min­utes. They are con­fi­dent in hav­ing a good de­fence.

“They wait for chances and are re­ally clin­i­cal. With­out play­ing on the high­est level, they still won the game be­cause they have that at­tack­ing qual­ity.

“One of the most dif­fi­cult things is to cre­ate chances be­cause they have a dif­fi­cult sys­tem to play against.

“When they get a lit­tle more space they kill the game.” AFP

AFP PIC

Chelsea's Pe­dro cel­e­brates scor­ing the open­ing goal against Ever­ton on Sun­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.