Antonio Conte dedicated Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal win to the fans, especially those who have unfailingly supported the team through all the good and bad of the season. That latter part is just implied.
“I’m pleased, I’m pleased for our fans, especially for our fans, because I think they are the people that deserve more this win.”
While that’s nice, what the fans and everybody else involved want to see is a win in the final. Conte spoke of his regret at not winning last year’s trophy-decider despite being favorites against Arsenal; now we’ll have to do it as underdogs.
“Another final FA Cup, as you know very well is not easy, is not simple to play two final in a row in this country, especially in this competition, it is an important competition.
“For sure it will not be easy. Last season we start to play the final as favorites, I think in this season we are not favorites, but we want to try to change the prediction.”
By the time the May 19th final rolls around, Chelsea could be carrying a fair bit of momentum. Sunday’s 2-0 win was far more lopsided on the statsheet, with the Blues dominating possession (56%), shots (17 to 9) and shots on target (5 to 3.) Aside from Moses and Rudiger losing concentration a couple of times in the second half as Southampton were forced to come out of their shell to chase the game, things went about as well as they could have. Even the late-season turnaround up front continued, with both strikers scoring.
In the meantime, there are four games left in the Premier League, where Chelsea need Tottenham to drop 6 of their last 12 points, or Liverpool give up their 8-point lead. Neither of those scenarios are all that likely, but Conte won’t concede the top-four until the maths say it’s impossible. So it’s noses back to the grindstone.
“Now it’s important to finish strongly the season as strongly as possible, in the best possible way for us, and then to think of the final.”
That’s how winners think, and Conte is a winner.