Antonio Conte won’t let champions Chelsea rest on their laurels

Antonio Conte won’t let champions Chelsea rest on their laurels

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Michy Batshuayi was the unlikely hero of Chelsea’s 1-0 win over West Brom on Friday, a result which ensured the West London club could not be caught by Spurs in this year’s Premier League title race. Manager Antonio Conte celebrated the £33 million man’s goal in typically exuberant fashion, but he knows the job is only half done.

The Italian manager was thrown into the air in celebration by his squad and drenched by a bucket of water and bottles of Champagne as he entered the dressing-room to scenes of jubilation and a semi-naked Diego Costa. “We were not lucky, we did a great job,” said Conte. “It is a great season, but to be a fantastic season we have to win the FA Cup.”

The Blues welcome Watford to Stamford Bridge on Monday night, but win, lose or draw, fans will not see the team presented with the Premier League trophy until the last game of the season, at home to Sunderland. John Terry could lift the trophy either alone or alongside on-field captain Gary Cahill.

But the opportunity to win the League and FA Cup ‘Double’ by beating Arsenal at Wembley on May 27 is guaranteed to still be at the forefront of Conte’s mind – even if his players may allowed to celebrate the club’s sixth league title. Arsenal and Chelsea last met in the FA Cup back in 2009, when the Blues ran out 2-1 winners at Wembley in a semi-final clash.

Didier Drogba, Arsenal’s nemesis for so long, scored the winner after 84 minutes that day, but Conte will look to ex-Arsenal man Cesc Fabregas to pull the strings in midfield against his former club this time around. Wenger has been forced to copy Conte’s 3-4-3 system and Fabregas said: “I watch Arsenal, they are playing a different system and maybe they are not performing fantastic in this system.”

“They are defensively better. They are winning and that’s important for them. But our belief is high, hopefully we can hurt them in the way we want. It will be emotional. I have to put those feelings aside. You have to be professional.” Chelsea have benefitted from not playing in European competition this season, a fact that Gunners’ boss Arsene Wenger was quick to point out won’t be the case next year.

“Chelsea have done well. Congratulations to them,” said Wenger. “But in the last two seasons, a team that hasn’t played in Europe has won the league. It will be a different season because they will have to play Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday due to Champions League matches.”

The 67-ear-old Frenchman also went on to claim that the European powerhouse teams have an easy domestic schedule which benefits them in the Champions League. “I feel in Spain, Real Madrid can win games by playing some at a lower percentage of the maximum than you can in England. Maybe they are, as well, better than us. Bayern is similar – they dominate the German championship in a very easy way.”

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