With the 3-1 win over Bournemouth at Dean Court on Saturday, Chelsea took another step towards clinching the Premier League title. In the seven league games left on the schedule, the Blues need to collect 15 points to achieve the ultimate target (assuming Spurs continuing winning).
However, our next set of games are not going to be easy. Chelsea face Manchester United at Old Trafford next weekend, followed by games against Southampton at home and Everton away later this month. And just like last weekend, Spurs will play first next weekend, adding to the pressure by potentially reducing the gap to just four points once again.
For Conte, it’s all about preparing in the right way for this situation.
"Probably we can find the same situation this week, because Tottenham play at home against Bournemouth, but in England easy games don’t exist. Bournemouth are a really good team, but if you compare these two games, we face United away and Tottenham will face Bournemouth at home, I think at this stage it is easier for Tottenham to think about points on the table."
"We have to think game by game and we know our schedule is not easy, but we want to play game by game and we will now prepare in the right way for United. I think we are having a good season, but we want it to become a great season."
Sunday’s trip to Old Trafford will be the third meeting between Mourinho’s new and old teams, with Chelsea winning twice at the Bridge already, 4-0 in the league and 1-0 in the FA Cup. There was plenty of drama and emotion in those two games, and that will undoubtedly be the case on Sunday as well, prompting Conte to publicly urge his team to keep their heads and concentration.
“For us it is very important to always control our emotion because we are fighting to win the title and, for sure, this game will be tough, but we are ready to play it.”
“I think Manchester United will have good motivation because they are playing against Chelsea and Chelsea is on top of the table and every team wants to beat us.”
“It is important in every game to try to get three points and, for sure, we know this game will be very tough, but we are in good form, the players have the right confidence and we want to try to win, but in the same way that United will try to win.”
United did finally notch a win this past weekend, beating hapless Sunderland 3-0. It was just their fourth win in 10 league games. Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho’s less than 40 per cent win record at home is the worst for United in the Premier League era. Such struggles have prompted recent outbursts from both the manager and his biggest star about a lack of quality in the squad, which is rather laughable given that their wage bill is the highest in the world and they spent more money than any other team on transfers last summer.
Meanwhile, there’s room to improve at Chelsea, too, both individually and collectively, but as usual, Antonio Conte prefers to talk about doing so on the training ground.
“The second goal, it was a good pass. I think N’Golo has to improve in this situation. If he is able to, he is a top, top player. We work with all the players to improve them and to try to work on their strengths and also to work on their weaknesses.”
“I’m happy for Eden, he scored a good goal, but also he is doing a good job and good work in the game. He is a great player, a great talent and he must understand he is a great player and never forget this.”
“I think that every coach, their function is not only to win. A good coach tries to improve his players and also tries to find the right way to work with them to improve all tactical and physical aspects and to show them the situations that they can improve.”
-Antonio Conte; Source: Chelsea FC
While the wins are not coming as easily as they did during the record-equalling 13-match winning streak earlier this season, Chelsea have continued to fight, work hard, and pay attention, and the blip against Crystal Palace aside, have continued to pick up the points needed to stay ahead in the title race.
Seven games to go.