Chelsea boss Antonio Conte haunted by failure fears

Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte has recalled the agony of relinquishing a commanding lead in a title race which left him unable to sleep for almost a week.

Chelsea have an eight-point lead at the Premier League summit ahead of Saturday’s clash with Swansea.

But Conte refuses to agree with those who have already anointed the Blues champions, reflecting on his own experience as a Juventus player in 1999-2000.

Juve had a seven-point lead with six games remaining but were overtaken by Lazio so Conte will not be happy until the title is mathematically certain.

“I have had two experiences,” Conte said. “One good experience, another bad experience, against Lazio.

“Lazio in the last six games recovered seven points and we lost the title in the last game against Perugia.

“I was captain of the team. I remember after this game I must go to the European Championships with the national team. I didn’t sleep for six days because it was a shock for me to lose the title.”

Two seasons later, Conte’s Juve were the chasers. They were six points behind Inter with five games to play and four adrift of Roma.

“We won the last game against Udinese and Inter lost the game against Lazio,” he added. I have experienced this. When I continue to repeat that there are 13 games, there are 39 points... there is a long time before we can say we won the title.”

Conte had not yet related his own experience to his Chelsea players.

He added: “No. It’s not important now. Now is not the right moment. There is a long time (to go). I’m sure if we take 32 points we will win the title. Otherwise, anything can happen.”

Conte laughed off the prospect of suffering the same fate as Jose Mourinho and Claudio Ranieri, the last two Premier League winning managers, who have been sacked during the following season.

“If you remember very well I was already sacked this season with the bookmakers. I was lucky to keep the right concentration and to continue the work.”

Conte’s focus is on a Swansea side revitalised by Paul Clement, whose side won at Liverpool last month and pushed Manchester City close.

Conte added: “Paul Clement is doing a great job with Swansea. We must pay great attention.”

Swansea’s Spain striker Fernando Llorente played under Conte at Juventus and was linked with a winter transfer window move to Chelsea. Llorente scored twice in the win at Anfield.

Conte wore a sheepish smile when discussing whether there had been a bid.

“This is the past. I think it’s not right to talk about the past,” he added. “I know him very well, because Fernando played with me at Juventus and we won together.

“He’s a really good player, good footballer. I have great admiration for him.

“It’s a pleasure for me to see him tomorrow, but I wish for him the best, but after this game.”

David Luiz and Marcos Alonso should return to Chelsea’s side, having been rested for the FA Cup win at Wolves.


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