‘ I’m in charge’

> Chelsea boss Conte af­firms his au­thor­ity af­ter Costa sub dis­pute

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

AN­TO­NIO CONTE re­vealed he ig­nored Diego Costa’s re­quest to be sub­sti­tuted be­cause the volatile Chelsea striker’s pas­sion is too im­por­tant to lose.

Costa scored his sev­enth Premier League goal of the sea­son as Chelsea cruised to a 3-0 win over splut­ter­ing cham­pi­ons Le­ices­ter at Stam­ford Bridge on Satur­day.

But the con­tro­ver­sial Spain star still man­aged to cause a fuss with his demon­stra­tive, but un­suc­cess­ful, at­tempt to con­vince Chelsea man­ager Conte to sub­sti­tute him in the 70th minute.

Costa was one book­ing away from be­ing sus­pended for next Sun­day’s home clash with Jose Mourinho’s Manch­ester United and, with the game against Le­ices­ter well in con­trol, he ges­tured that he wanted to come off.

He even clutched at his legs as if strug­gling with an in­jury in the clos­ing stages, but Conte was un­moved and in­sisted he didn’t want to lose a player with Costa’s tone-set­ting ag­gres­sion even for a few min­utes.

“If I can, I keep Costa un­til the end of the game. Costa is an im­por­tant player for us,” Conte said. “He is in good shape. He has pas­sion and we need his pas­sion in ev­ery mo­ment of the game.

“I know I risked it be­cause if Costa took an­other yel­low card he misses the next game. I de­cide the sub­sti­tu­tions. Al­ways I take the re­spon­si­b­lity in ev­ery sit­u­a­tion, good or bad.”

Conte was also re­warded for stick­ing to his be­liefs about play­ing three cen­tral de­fend­ers.

Hav­ing changed to his pre­ferred for­ma­tion af­ter Chelsea leaked too many goals, Conte was re­warded with a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive clean-sheet de­spite leav­ing fit-again cap­tain John Terry on the bench.

Conte had laughed off sug­ges­tions he was about to be sacked af­ter some book­mak­ers sus­pended bet­ting on his de­par­ture on Thurs­day.

And Chelsea’s best per­for­mance of the sea­son was a wel­come vote of con­fi­dence.

“I’m quite tran­quilo. I’m very happy,” Conte said. “When you work so hard dur­ing the week, it’s log­i­cal you want to see a good re­sult. I’m very happy, above all for my play­ers.”

Mean­while, Clau­dio Ranieri ad­mits Le­ices­ter’s maiden Cham­pi­ons League voy­age is ru­in­ing their Premier League ti­tle de­fence.

Ranieri’s side are 11 points be­hind lead­ers Manch­ester City af­ter their fourth loss of the sea­son.

That is more de­feats than Le­ices­ter suf­fered in the whole of last sea­son and they are also the first English cham­pi­ons to lose four suc­ces­sive away games since Black­burn in 1995-96.

“When you play in the Cham­pi­ons League for the first time in the club’s life, the con­cen­tra­tion can be very high in the Cham­pi­ons League and it is not the same in the Premier League,” Ranieri said.

“I can un­der­stand this. It is not only one man who changed the team, it is the brain that changed the team.

“I’m not wor­ried. I know my job. There are good and bad mo­ments. I have to work.”

Ranieri con­ceded he might have un­set­tled his team by rest­ing three key fig­ures, in­clud­ing last sea­son’s player of the year Riyad Mahrez, to keep them fit for to­mor­row’s Cham­pi­ons League clash with Dan­ish side Copen­hagen.

“We want to go in the knock­out in the Cham­pi­ons League, to achieve this you have to have all your play­ers fit. I pre­fer to keep play­ers fit for Tues­day.” – AFP

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