Antonio Conte said that Chelsea must “exploit” the psychological advantage of their FA Cup semi-final victory over Tottenham in the Premier League title race.
Chelsea’s 4-2 triumph at Wembley kept them on course for the Double in Conte’s first season as manager, dealing a heavy blow to their title rivals. And although both managers played down the wider significance of the result, Conte stressed that the momentum now lies with Chelsea.
“We have to try to exploit the momentum,” he explained. “Because for sure, this win is really important, against a team that are fighting with you for the title. Yes, we must exploit this. For this reason, it’s now important to be focused. We must know that Tottenham want to fight until the end.”
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino claimed that Tottenham “played much better” than their opponents, and “dominated” the game. But after Tottenham’s seventh consecutive FA Cup semi-final defeat, he was forced to defend his side’s mentality in big games.
“I cannot change the past,” he said. “The past is the past. We need to build today, the present, for a better future. Two years ago it was difficult to think we could arrive at a level at which we play finals, or fight for the Premier League. Now it’s a reality.
“We will move on. We are only a little bit disappointed. Sometimes you play well but you don’t win. It’s true that we lost. But this is the way that we want to play. It sets a basis for the future, and we will try again next season.”
The title race resumes on Tuesday, with Chelsea hosting Southampton on Tuesday night and Tottenham going to Crystal Palace on Wednesday. Conte did not miss an opportunity to draw attention to Tottenham’s extra rest day, declaring that it handed them an unfair advantage.
“It is difficult to understand,” he said. “We have to play after two and a half days against a team that rests for 10 days. They have to play against Crystal Palace, and Palace have to play tomorrow [Sunday].
“This is a very crucial moment for us. You must try to have balance, and put both teams in the same condition to fight. But the best answer is on the pitch.”
Pochettino again paid tribute to their under-23 coach Ugo Ehiogu, who died suddenly on Friday. “It was a big shock for all of us,” he said. “It was a big impact, because he was a person that was very close to us, and at the moment you realise that this is real life. We fight to play and win games, but it is all relative after this type of situation.”