Antonio Conte knows his team are nearly there after tonight’s fine win and he has urged his players to complete the job when we face West Bromwich Albion on Friday.
A solitary Premier League victory stands between us and the title following the excellent 3-0 dissection of Middlesbrough at the Bridge. The result relegated our opponents and Conte had words for them afterwards, as well as Cesc Fabregas and the group as a whole.
First up he considered where we stand now…
‘For sure now I am a bit relaxed,’ Conte revealed. ‘This step was big.
‘It was a big win at this stage of the season. It’s great. Now we need to do another step. We have the possibility to do this on Friday against West Brom, but for sure it won’t be easy because West Brom are a really good, physical team so we must pay attention.
‘But for sure today we did a big step. I must be honest, and I must be pleased for the performance, the commitment, the desire and the will of my players on the pitch. It’s great to score three goals, to create many chances and also to keep another clean sheet. I’m satisfied.’
Once again the Stamford Bridge faithful sung Conte’s name loud and proud
‘It’s great to breathe this atmosphere at Stamford Bridge and to hear your fans with this enthusiasm and passion. It’s great for me and my players. Last season was very bad. This season we started with a lot of problems. Now we have been very good to find the right way and have a fantastic season.
‘We are very close and we must be honest about this, but we need to do another little step and win another game. I repeat: it won’t be easy.’
At the end of the game Conte also acknowledged the travelling Boro support and their players too
‘In this case, it’s important to celebrate your win. For us to win today means we are very, very close to winning the title, to have a great achievement in the first season for me.
‘At the same time, it’s great to see a team who got relegated and see the fans clapping the players, and the players staying there receiving the claps and also clapping the fans. It’s important to celebrate the win, but also have great respect and to clap this type of situation. I think this situation can only happen in England. I don’t remember this in Italy, it’s very difficult to see.
‘This is great. Football is a beautiful sport in the world. For this reason, I felt in my heart to go and clap the fans and also wish every single Middlesbrough player good luck for next season.’
Conte was asked about the pressure his players have been under in recent weeks
‘They have faced this situation in the right way. Our worst moment was after the United defeat, because Tottenham won the game and to see your opponent only four points [behind] was very bad.
‘Then we had to play against them in the semi-final of the FA Cup, then after three days we had to play against Southampton, who had been rested for 10 days, then we had another game against Everton away.
‘At that moment we had a lot of pressure, but at that moment my players showed me great commitment, will, focus and desire to overcome this moment and try to win the league.
‘Now there is pressure, but it’s a good pressure, a pressure that must bring excitement in our heart. The target is very close and we must have enthusiasm, will and desire to reach this target because my players deserve to win the league.’
Fabregas was influential today, setting up the first goal for Diego Costa and the third for Nemanja Matic
‘Cesc is one of the best examples of our season. This season he didn’t play a lot at the start. Then, through hard work, he improved a lot and now he is playing in every game. This development of Cesc is our development.
‘We started the season not in the right way, with a lot of problems, and only through hard work and finding the right solutions together have we found the right way.
‘I think Cesc is showing he is a fantastic player and I’m pleased for him. I saw this season he put himself in this team in every moment if he played, or if he didn’t play. Now he is deserving this.’
Conte insisted the gameplan will not change as we try to cross the finish line
‘We have our idea of football and we must continue to play always in this way: to attack and at the same time have a good balance, and avoid counter-attacks when we attack.
‘It wasn’t easy because Middlesbrough had Adama Traore, a very fast player. But my players played really well and we must continue in this way, and not think we must be more defensive and try to defend more. No, this is not our way. Our way is to try to dominate the game and create chances and have always the right balance. Sometimes we are very good and other times not so good, but it’s very important to always have and respect our idea of football.’
Finally Conte looked to the immediate future
‘Now it’s very important to rest, because in this game you lose a lot of physical and mental energy, and then prepare in two days for another tough game against West Brom.
‘It won’t be easy because they are a really good team and they will want to play a top game against us. We have three chances to become champions. We are very close but we need to make another step.’