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Chelsea FC

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Chelsea boss Antonio Conte was asked how close the title is after the win at Goodison Park today,    But he refused to admit the race is over:

“I don’t know. It is a great win but at this part of the season every win is a great win for us,” the Italian tactician said after the three points gained against Everton.

“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 I think we are having a great season but to become a fantastic season we must win.

“Now it is important for us to prepare the right way the next game. If we don’t win against Middlesbrough (a week on Monday) then you lose this great win.

“It is very important after this crucial week for us because we played against Tottenham in the FA Cup and then on Tuesday against Southampton and now against Everton.

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

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Chelsea boss Antonio Conte reckons the Blues deserved to win at Goodison Park today, a crucial win for their title race:

A good win. Everton are a strong team and they prepared the game well, so we must be pleased,” the Italian coach told Sky Sports.

Pedro’s goal, the 1-0 for Chelsea, arrived only with 24 minutes to go, but for Conte was just the right award for his guys’ effort:

We had a lot of patience for the right moment to hit, and we deserved the win.

“In this type of game it’s easy to lose your head, lose your balance. For this reason at half-time I told them to be calm and to stay in the game.

“We scored an amazing goal with Pedro, then the second and third, but it was not so easy. This gives us lots of confidence. Now it is important to prepare the final rush.

“If in the next game against Middlesbrough you don’t win you lose this victory. We must look step by step.”

 

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Conte celebrates at the end of the FA Cup semifinal against Spurs © Francesca Ceciarini

Antonio Conte was beaming in front of Goodison Park away end after the final whistle.

Blues legend Frank Lampard says it’s great to see a manager like that.

Chelsea fans have seen this from Conte all season: passion and a feeling of togetherness.

“The players seem to want to play for him. I know he works them hard on the training field, which can be very repetitive.

“Sometimes it’s hard to keep players interested. But Conte has found the perfect balance.

“You can’t help but respond when you have a manager like that.”

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Antonio Conte admitted he is not sure he will be able to keep some Chelsea stars at Stamford Bridge next summer.

Rumours were suggesting that Eden Hazard was targeted by Real Madrid and a move to the Blancos was possible for the Belgian forward, and Conte revealed the club will have the last say on this matter:

“It is impossible for me to take this responsibility. Not only for Eden but for every single player, it is the club that has the final decision. I can tell my opinion about this situation but the club has the final word, and it is right this.

“My opinion about Eden is that he is a great player and he has great talent and in this season he has improved a lot, not only on the pitch but also he is becoming mentally strong and at this level it is very important to try to have this step, because this step brings the best players in the world. I think Eden is starting to do this step.

“This season I am seeing a player with good maturity and a player who wants to be decisive during a game.”

Anyway, the Italian coach admitted Chelsea and him would love Hazard to stay:

“I don’t think this idea is the mind of the club because we have to improve the team, to reinforce the team, but you know in football there is also the will of the player but also I think Eden is very happy to be at Chelsea and stay and work with us. I can say this but for the future I do not have a crystal ball.

“The fans love him and there a lot of positive things that bring him to stay here and try to reach the best with this club, because the target for this club is to try to win in every competition you have to play.”

Speaking about tomorrow’s game against Everton and title race, he said:

“In this league we have to fight to the end. I know our fixtures and the difficulty for the games we have to face. For this reason, I am sure we have to fight to the end to win this title and who wins this title it will be by one or two points but not a lot.”

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Chelsea boss Antonio Conte commented the U18 Blues Youth Cup success.
The Italian manager watched the final against Manchester City at Stamford Bridge sitting next to the owner, Roman Abramovich:
We watched the game together. It’s always good to see Mr Abramovich and to stay together, also to enjoy the game and to see our team winning for the fourth time in a row. The FA Youth Cup. Yes, it was good.”
Asked if he can integrate some of these players in the future:
“For sure, it’s very important for Chelsea, the work in the academy. The academy is working very well. I think in this team, yes, I saw four or five players with good prospects for the future. But you know that it’s not easy then to become a Chelsea player and to play for the first-team.
“This gap is not simple, not only for Chelsea but in all teams. But we must be proud of the work in the academy. We have 23 players in our squad, with three goalkeepers. We have four players with our academy. Ruben, Chalobah and Ake, and Aina… I think it’s great, this.”

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Chelsea players celebrating Diego Costa's goal against Everton back in November © Francesca Ceciarini

Writing for BetVictor former Ballon d’Or winner Michael Owen picked his two key players for Everton v Chelsea:

“This should be a cracking game with Everton looking to exorcise their 5-0 loss to the Champions-elect at the Bridge earlier in the season,” the ex Liverpool, Real Madrid and Man United forward wrote.

“Only Liverpool have won at Goodison in the PL so far this season and it is their home form, eight successive wins, which has seen Everton challenge for a top-six spot.

Diego Costa has a good record against Everton and he was back to his best against Southampton midweek.

“Reports suggest Romelu Lukaku is earmarked as a replacement for Costa should he leave the Bridge for China in the summer and the outcome of the game could revolve around the two inform strikers.”

A footnotte added: “Michael’s recommendation: Diego Costa to score at anytime at Evens.”

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Eden Hazard against Everton back in November © Francesca Ceciarini

Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson reckons Chelsea can obtain a win at Goodison Park this Sunday in a clash against Everton that that to many people seem the last tough obstacle between the Blues and the Premier League title:

Everton are a weird team,” the ex Arsenal player wrote his column for the TV network.

“They get to a certain stage, you think they’re set to kick on for a top four or top-five place, and they just melt away.

“A few weeks ago they were flying, went to Middlesbrough and drew 0-0. Then they were flying again and got well beaten by Tottenham. And then they were flying again, go to West Ham and draw 0-0.

“They have not taken that next step and I worry for them. It will be a competitive game but Chelsea should have too much.”

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Everton midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin warns Chelsea ahead of this Sunday’s clash at Goodison Park.

The game away with the Toffees seems the last really tough match the Blues will have to face in this title race with Spurs, but the ex Southampton and Manchester United player sends Conte’s players a message.

Everton lost 5-0 at Stamford Bridge back in November, in which was probably the best Chelsea display during this season, even if the French midfielder was still a Red Devils player at that time:

“It will be in the back of people’s minds that they want to have revenge for that loss.

“But the only thing we can focus on now is our performance on Sunday.

“We need to make sure that we don’t let them breathe and exploit the qualities that they have because they have so much quality all over the park.

“It is up to us to be hard to beat and to be on them every minute and not them have any space.”

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Chelsea U18 coach Jody Morris share his satisfaction after leading the young Blues to win their fourth Youth Cup in four years, the sixth of the past eight editions.

Morris’ kids obtained their success after winning 6-2 on aggregate on Manchester City:

The big players turned up for us when we needed them to,” Morris told the official Chelsea website after the game.

“Winning breeds winning and we’re lucky enough to have a first team that set the standard in that respect. We’ve had teams before us in this competition that have performed and won on many occasions so it’s nice for us to emulate them and with some special performances at the Bridge against Tottenham and Man City as well.’

On the game, he said:

“We started quickly but the most pleasing thing for me was that we finished our chances.

“We’ve been cursing often this season that we should have scored more goals in games but we put them away at the most important time. We knew City had to come forward to chase the game and we’ve got players that can hurt teams, which we did.”

Morris and his guys are also in the race to win the U18 league:

“The reason we’ve done so well in every competition and improved game after game is because we put such a focus on our league results. We’ve been on fantastic unbeaten runs and beaten records this season because we expect to win every game. That has definitely played a part in us winning the Youth Cup again but we want to finish the job in the league now and win on Saturday.”

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Chelsea boss Antonio Conte took a swipe at the two Manchester clubs claiming a lavish transfer market don’t automatically bring you wins.

Manchester City splashed nearly £ 200m on the market last summer while Man United spent around £ 160m ( Chelsea spent around £ 130m… anyway) and the Italian manager commented on this:

“I think this season it’s very important to understand that it’s not always about who spends more money who wins,” said Conte.

“Otherwise, in this league, this season the name of the team wasn’t Chelsea or Tottenham or Arsenal or Liverpool. You understand?

“Look at the past. It’s normal for them. It’s right for them to do this, to reinforce their teams, if they think this is the right way to win the title.

Manchester City and Manchester United will face each other in a derby tonight that won’t mean anything for the title race, as many were expecting at the start of this season: the two sides will fight for

Asked to comment what Conte said, Citizens boss Pep Guardiola replied:

“I played with Barcelona and won the Champions League with eight guys growing from the academy. Zero cost to win the Champions League, that happened.

“But all the clubs are going to spend a lot of money and you cannot forget all the players that Chelsea have that cost a lot of money.

“People think that just City spend money but all the clubs around the world, in Spain, Germany, England and Italy, they spend a lot of money.

“This summer it is going to happen again. Here spends more money than the other countries because of the media, who pay a lot of money to decide when we are going to play. That’s why there is a little bit more here.”

“But all around the world there is a lot of money to spend, even Chelsea.”

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