Antonio Conte will call upon moments of bitter disappointment from his own esteemed playing career to keep Chelsea focused on their bid for the Premier League title.
Saturday’s resounding 3-1 win over Arsenal established a 12-point lead at the top of the table – one that remained after Liverpool slipped to a shock 2-0 defeat at Hull City.
Conte, formerly a player and head coach for Juventus and Italy, knows triumph and despair at the sharp end of the game well.
He recalled Juve’s Champions League final defeats at the hands of Borussia Dortmund and AC Milan in 1997 and 2003 respectively, having overcome Ajax on penalties to conquer Europe in 1996.
The Old Lady also succumbed to Lazio’s thrilling late charge to snatch Serie A glory in 1999-2000 and Conte is wary of his in-form side suffering a similar fate with 14 matches still to play.
“We haven’t won the title. It is important to know this and to keep our antenna very high,” he said.
“In my career as a footballer I won a lot but I lost a lot. When you have got to three finals of the Champions League and you win only one, I think you have a great hunger.
“Also, during my experience as a footballer, I won a title with eight points more before four games at the end. Another time I lost in the same way.
“For this reason I feel I have a bit of experience to manage this situation.”
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) February 4, 2017
In contrast to their previous best efforts in the Premier League, Chelsea’s impressive form this time around have come with club captain John Terry as a spectator.
The 36-year-old again failed to make the matchday squad against Arsenal and, when asked to acknowledge his on-field skipper Gary Cahill, Conte also reserved warm words for the former England centre-back.
“Yes, but I want to underline that our captain is John Terry,” he said.
“John is our captain, is doing the captaincy very well and is helping me a lot – not only me, but his team-mates.
“His behaviour is fantastic. Gary is vice-captain and now he is captain on the pitch when John doesn’t play.
“Cahill I think is playing very well and he is showing all his quality. He is a really good defender
“I am happy for him and for his performance.
“Now it is important because the championship did not finish today.”
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