Conte eyes re­venge over Ar­se­nal

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An­to­nio Conte chal­lenged Chelsea to avenge last sea­son’s FA Cup fifi nal heartache when face Ar­se­nal

LON­DON: An­to­nio Conte has chal­lenged Chelsea to avenge last sea­son’s FA Cup fi­nal heartache when they face ti­tle ri­vals Ar­se­nal on Sun­day.

Conte’s team were de­nied a mem­o­rable Pre­mier League and FA Cup dou­ble after the cham­pi­ons crashed to a 2-1 de­feat against Ar­se­nal at Wem­b­ley in May.

With Alexis Sanchez scor­ing a con­tro­ver­sial opener for Ar­se­nal and Chelsea’s Vic­tor Moses sent off for div­ing, it was a bit­ter con­clu­sion to an oth­er­wise per­fect first sea­son in charge for Conte.

The Gun­ners also handed Conte the most chas­ten­ing de­feat of his reign ear­lier that sea­son with a 3-0 vic­tory in the league, as well as de­feat­ing Chelsea in the Com­mu­nity Shield at the start of this term.

Any meet­ing with Lon­don ri­vals Ar­se­nal is a big mo­ment in Chelsea’s sea­son, but those painful losses mean the lat­est derby at Stam­ford Bridge car­ries ex­tra sig­nif­i­cance for Conte and com­pany.

“I re­mem­ber very well that game. We were un­lucky, if you re­mem­ber the first goal it was very strange,” Conte said of the Cup fi­nal.

“I was sure this goal would be dis­al­lowed, in­stead we started 1-0 down. We tried to change the game, then a red card, with 10 men we equalised, but then we con­ceded an­other goal.

“When you lose there is al­ways dis­ap­point­ment but I al­ways see a good men­tal­ity from my play­ers when there is a de­feat.

“After a bad start to this sea­son, the Burn­ley de­feat, I had a good an­swer from my play­ers, they showed a great men­tal­ity.”

That open­ing week­end loss to Burn­ley aside, it has been a per­fect start for Chelsea, with three suc­ces­sive league wins fol­lowed by a 6-0 thrash­ing of Qarabag in the Cham­pi­ons League on Tues­day.

In con­trast, Ar­se­nal have en­dured a rocky pe­riod as a loss at Stoke was fol­lowed by a hu­mil­i­at­ing 4-0 de­feat against Liver­pool.

Vic­to­ries against Bournemouth and Cologne have done lit­tle to ease the con­cerns of Ar­se­nal fans who be­lieve Gun­ners boss Arsene Wenger is no longer the right man for the job.

Ar­se­nal have gone 13 years with­out win­ning the English ti­tle and last sea­son failed to qual­ify for the Cham­pi­ons League for the first time in 20 years.

Keen to keep his play­ers fo­cused, Conte re­fused to write off Ar­se­nal when asked about their trou­bled start.

“I don’t want to speak about Ar­se­nal’s prob­lems. You know very well that in a sin­gle game any­thing can hap­pen,” he said.

“They are one of the six top teams in Eng­land and are ca­pa­ble of win­ning the ti­tle.”

Conte’s main con­cern head­ing into the derby is an ill­ness that has given him a sore throat – not an ideal sit­u­a­tion for a man­ager renowned for bel­low­ing in­struc­tions at his play­ers dur­ing matches.

“I’ve been tak­ing anti-bi­otics. I hope to solve this sit­u­a­tion, oth­er­wise it will be a prob­lem for me!” said Conte, who could hand a first start of the sea­son to Eden Haz­ard fol­low­ing his re­cov­ery from an­kle surgery.

Wenger’s side have no mar­gin for er­ror as they try to keep up with the early pace-set­ters in the ti­tle race and Ar­se­nal de­fender Per Merte­sacker ad­mits it’s es­sen­tial Sanchez re­dis­cov­ers his best form.

Sanchez failed in his at­tempt to force a trans­fer to Manchester City on dead­line day, but the Chile for­ward re­mains part of Wenger’s plans and scored against Cologne on Thurs­day.

“He’s a part of the team, so we want ev­ery­one to be in­volved at their best. And ob­vi­ously he’s go­ing to be vi­tal,” Merte­sacker said. “I think he’s happy to join in and just sac­ri­fice, that’s what he al­ways does.”

Aware that Liver­pool ex­ploited Ar­se­nal’s de­fen­sive flaws, Merte­sacker says his side won’t be so naive this time.

“We have to learn quickly and not do the same mis­take again,” he said. “Liver­pool beat us re­ally on the break and Chelsea will try to do the same on Sun­day.” — AFP

After a bad start to this sea­son, the Burn­ley de­feat, I had a good an­swer from my play­ers, they showed a great men­tal­ity. — An­to­nio Conte, Chelsea man­ager

AN­TO­NIO CONTE ARSENE WENGER

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