Chelsea manager Antonio Conte calls for change in title run-in fixture scheduling

Ian Winrow
The Independent
Conte wants top clubs' fixtures to be better coordinated: Getty
Conte wants top clubs' fixtures to be better coordinated: Getty

Antonio Conte has called for a change in the fixture schedule to ensure the Premier League title contenders share the same kick-off times during the final run-in.

Conte’s Chelsea side can move seven points clear of rivals Tottenham Hotspur with four games remaining if they beat Everton on Sunday, shortly before Mauricio Pochettino’s side face Arsenal in the north London derby.

That would increase the pressure on Spurs, and Conte believes the fixtures of the top clubs should be better coordinated before the final day of the campaign.

“For sure, at the end of the season, I think that when you have two teams in the race, in contention for the title, I think you must have a good balance to try to put the fixtures in the same hour, on the same days, and don't give advantage to one team or another,” said the Italian.

“When you arrive at the last three games, when you see there are two or three teams very close to fight for the title, you have to find a solution not to give advantage for one team or another. Try and keep it the same hour, the same days to rest.”

The trip to Everton marks the biggest challenge of Chelsea’s final fixtures with home games against Middlesbrough, Watford and Sunderland and a trip to West Bromwich Albion to come.

By contrast, Tottenham travel to West Ham after the Arsenal clash and will then make trips to Leicester City and Hull City after a home meeting with Manchester United.

Conte, though, rejects the suggestion his side has the easier run-in.

“I don't think so, I don't think so,” he said. “I think, at this part of the season, every game is very tough for many reasons. You have a lot of pressure. You know you have to win. When, for sure, you have to play with this target, yes, it's not simple. It's not easy. But not only for us. Also for Tottenham.

“But we are ready. I repeat: we've worked a lot to arrive at this point fighting for the title. For this reason, we want to reach our target with all our strength. We have to do our job with the right pressure but, at the same time, to enjoy this moment.”

He added: “Everton are a really good team, a strong team, with great players in their squad. Good quality. A physical team, also. They have a good coach, a good manager. They play organised football.

“It will be a very tough game for us, for sure, but at the end of the season, every game becomes tough for many different reasons.”

A point will ensure Chelsea are guaranteed a top-four finish and a return to the Champions League and Conte said: “This is a good achievement for us. When we started this season, our first target was to play in the Champions League next season. We are very close to reaching that target.

“It's an important target for the club, for the fans, for the players. But, for sure now, we stay in a position to try also to win the league. But, yes, it's a great achievement for us to play next season in the Champions League.”

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