Antonio Conte has suggested there is a fixture conspiracy against his Chelsea side.
Chelsea play Newcastle at 12.30pm today, having beaten Swansea 1-0 on Wednesday, 24 hours after the Magpies drew 2-2 at West Brom. Conte has previously complained about Chelsea’s fixture schedule in relation to matches with Manchester City, Watford and Liverpool following European games. And the Italian expressed his frustrations again yesterday.
“Now it’s very difficult to think this is a coincidence,” Conte said. “This is the fourth time. I’m not stupid, if someone wants to joke with me I’m not the right person to joke (with).
“Once it can happen. Twice it can happen. The third time, you start to be perplexed. In only 14 games (it has happened) four times.
“Every team has this type of situation. But from start of the season, I don’t know, I see only Chelsea to have this type of situation.
“I don’t want advantages. If we have to play every two days, I’m ready. But we need to have the same rest as our opponents, then we see what happens. Is it difficult to do this? I don’t think so. It is a strange coincidence.”
Chelsea have previously made representations to the Premier League over the issue after Conte’s complaints.
The Italian described the schedule which required his side to play at Liverpool last Saturday, after a Wednesday night match in Azerbaijan as “incredible”.
“I’m trying to protect my club, I’m trying to protect my players and I’m trying to protect the fans and maybe also the league,” he added.
Conte says he will accept a Football Association charge of misconduct after his dismissal against Swansea. The Italian apologised to referee Neil Swarbrick and fourth official Lee Mason after his first-half dismissal against Swansea.
Chelsea will again be without defender David Luiz for the visit of Newcastle due to a knee injury. Luiz has been linked with a January move to Real Madrid. “This moment is very early to talk about this topic,” Conte said.
Meanwhile Rafael Benitezstill wonders what might have been after being handed a mission to “save” Chelsea.
The Newcastle boss believes he would have stayed longer than the six months he had at Stamford Bridge had it not been for a vocal minority among the Blues’ support.
Benitez was drafted in by owner Roman Abramovich to replace Roberto di Matteo in November 2012 after the Italian guided the club to Champions League glory, only to falter the following season.
But despite winning the Europa League and finishing third in the Premier League, Benitez was on his way out in the following May and replaced by Jose Mourinho.
“All the feedback that I had from the professionals and the board was very positive,” said Benitez. “Initially, he brought me to save the team and to achieve what we did achieve. Afterwards, they thought they had to change and they did.
“My relationship with Abramovich was really good, with the people of the board was really good. They knew that we were professionals and we were doing our job.
“We were achieving what they expected. We won the Europa League. Everything was fine. The majority of fans were happy. But maybe some of them, because of my past with Liverpool, they were unhappy.”
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