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Conte hoping to improve London derby record, wishes he didn’t need to

Chelsea’s manager isn’t the biggest fan of London’s crowded derby schedule

Watford v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Saturday will usher in Antonio Conte’s sixth London derby of the season. He’ll be glad to see the back of it.

That’s because despite taking England by storm last season, the Italian has had his share of headaches inside Greater London.

And he’s not crazy about having so many heated rivalries every season.

“If you are a team and you stay in London you must be prepared to play a lot of special games. For sure, it is different this type of game.

”In Italy if you are in Turin there is only one derby, in Milan the same, in Rome [too]. In Manchester only one game.”

-Antonio Conte, December 2017; source: Evening Standard

He’s trying to be nice about it. These derbies trip him up. In fact, the quotes in this story come the day before Chelsea played West Ham at London Stadium this season.

Result? A 1-0 loss.

West Ham United v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

And that’s the rule, not the exception. In the five London derbies that Chelsea have played so far this season, they’ve taken six points from a possible 15, winning just once (that epic 2-1 over Tottenham at Wembley, in August).

Over his season and a half at the helm Conte has guided Chelsea to seven wins, three draws and eight losses in London derbies. By any measure, that’s below par for a team of Chelsea’s caliber.

Which explains why our manager said this.

“I think in this league every game is very tough but to play during a season eight to ten derby is more difficult.”

-Antonio Conte, December 2017; source: Evening Standard

Crystal Palace have been a particular problem. They’ve won their last two at Stamford Bridge. Conte himself has gone up against them three times, but been on the winning side just once.

The last defeat was in October at Selhurst Park, when Wilfried Zaha scored the winner. Conte won’t go as far as to say that Palace are a jinx team, but he is mystified by their plight at the wrong end of the table, especially with Zaha back for selection after a knee injury.

“We are talking about a really good player and I remember in the first game in this season when we lost the game away he scored and he created a lot of problems but I think that Crystal Palace is not only Zaha but Townsend for me is a really good player, there is Benteke, there are many good players in this squad, to see them in this position in the table is a bit strange.”

-Antonio Conte; source: Evening Standard

It’s not just Conte who trips up against the Eagles. Palace have won four of the last eight, a stretch of games that also covers the tenures of Jose Mourinho Part Two and Guus Hiddink Part Two.

Crystal Palace v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images

I had a history teacher who always said, “History teaches us nothing, except that history teaches us nothing.”

I’m going to twist that into our favor. Let it be that Chelsea’s past troubles are forgotten against Crystal Palace on Saturday. And that as we fight to reach the top four, let Tottenham’s upcoming visit to Stamford Bridge be an unpleasant one for them.

And that history we’re choosing to ignore? It’s actually in our favor with Spurs. Conte is 3-1 against them, bagging three on the trot.

Soon to be four, we hope.

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