CONTE

Chelsea man­ager en­ter­tains as Blues close in on ti­tle

New Straits Times - - Sport -

LON­DON Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur, can only watch and hope af­ter they dropped points in a de­feat at West Ham United last Fri­day and do not play again un­til Sun­day.

Conte, whose side have led the ta­ble since Novem­ber in his first sea­son in charge, has been count­ing down the points, re­peat­ing each week like a mantra the num­ber needed to get over the line. Tot­ten­ham have been breath­ing down their necks.

“Our worst mo­ment was af­ter the (Manch­ester) United de­feat (last month) be­cause Tot­ten­ham were win­ning. To see your op­po­nent only four points be­hind was very hard,” he said.

“In that mo­ment my play­ers showed me great com­mit­ment to over­come this mo­ment and to try to win the league.”

Com­mit­ment and hard work are buzz­words for the 47-yearold Conte but he urged his play­ers in Foot­ball Leaks: The Dirty Busi­ness of Foot­ball, based on the re­search of Der Spiegel jour­nal­ists Rafael Buschmann and Michael Wulzinger.

The knee in­jury Ibrahi­movic sus­tained in the Europa League against An­der­lecht last month may cost him the guar­an­tee of a sec­ond year at Old Traf­ford.

It is claimed that the con­tract ex­ten­sion would only have been trig­gered if Ibrahi­movic had made 31 Pre­mier League starts — he fell short on 27 — and United fin­ished in the top three.

The 35-year-old Swede had knee surgery last week and could be out of ac­tion un­til next year. United are open to the idea of the striker do­ing his re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion with them but it re­mains to be seen if he plays for United again.

Pogba’s £165,000-a-week ba­sic salary may seem mod­est in com­par­i­son to en­joy their mo­ment.

“It’s great to breathe this at­mos­phere at Stam­ford Bridge,” he said. “It’s great for me, for my play­ers, for the club to see this great at­mos­phere.”

Mid­dles­brough will join northeast ri­vals Sun­der­land in the Cham­pi­onship next sea­son.

Boro are seven points adrift of the safety zone with two games re­main­ing.

It is the fourth time Mid­dles­brough have been rel­e­gated from the Pre­mier League and cap­tain Ben Gib­son said they would have to learn lessons from this sea­son so they could bounce back.

“It’s not just tonight it’s a full sea­son,” he told Sky Sports af­ter the de­feat at Stam­ford Bridge. “We haven’t been good enough. That’s ev­ery player, the staff, my­self.” Agen­cies to those of some of the world’s top play­ers but there are sub­stan­tial in­cen­tives built into an ex­haus­tive 41-page con­tract, par­tic­u­larly if United qual­ify for the Cham­pi­ons League.

As Jose Mour­inho’s side pre­pare to face Celta Vigo at home to­mor­row for a place in the Europa League fi­nal, Pogba has good rea­son to want to win the tro­phy.

Fail­ure to reach the Cham­pi­ons League could cost the club as much as £65 mil­lion in lost TV rev­enue and prize money. United would also for­feit more than £20 mil­lion of their £750 mil­lion kit deal with adi­das.

More im­por­tantly, United’s lat­est fi­nan­cial fig­ures due out next week are pre­dicted to show record rev­enue of £540 mil­lion and prof­its of £180 mil­lion. Daily Mail

EPA PIC

Chelsea’s Diego Costa (left) and Mid­dles­brough’s Fabio Da Silva vie for the ball on Mon­day.

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