There was plenty of anticipation in the air at Stamford Bridge today where Antonio Conte conducted what he hopes will be his last press conference before his team become champions.
He was at pains to repeat throughout that we are not there yet, even if many of the journalists’ questions took the title win as a given. Three more points are still required with the first opportunity to claim them coming at The Hawthorns tomorrow night, a fixture Conte reports he has every player available for.
The boss was asked what the mood in the camp is like right now and if his players are feeling nervous ahead of a potentially defining match.
‘This moment is a really good moment for us,’ he said. ‘We are so close to reaching a fantastic target, but we mustn’t forget we have to take three points in these three games.
‘Tomorrow we have the first chance. Also, we must know to play against West Brom is not easy. They are a really strong, physical team, with a good coach. For sure the atmosphere will be very hot.
‘It’s important at this moment to enjoy. We have worked a lot; we have worked very hard. I like to repeat: this is a good season; we want it to become a great season. There is only one way: to take three points and win the title.
‘My players are totally focused on the moment,’ Conte added. ‘It’s normal to live this moment in the right way, with the right pressure.
‘I am seeing my players very focused and concentrated and it’s great for me when I see this type of behaviour and this attitude during training.’
Conte said he wanted to get it over with as soon as possible but pointed to our home game against the Baggies in December, one of the toughest all season, as evidence of how hard it would be tomorrow.
"First, you must find men, and then good players. I found great men, and then really good players."
Reflecting on the campaign as a whole, Conte was asked to single out the most important factor behind our success.
‘First of all, I like to underline that this season, above all at the start, wasn’t easy. We faced a lot of problems. We had to solve a lot of problems. When you arrive 10th in the league it means there is not only one problem, but a lot of problems. The problem is not only one person. You must divide the fault for this.
‘We started this season trying to solve the problems, with my players, my staff and the club, and trying to find the right solution to change the situation that we created in the last season.
‘For this reason I have to say thanks to my club, my players and above all my staff. They worked very hard to change this.’
Conte then spoke in more detail on the efforts his squad have put in this term.
‘I have to say thanks to my players because it’s not easy to adapt to a new method and philosophy, and also work very hard to change totally from this season with the past one. They are doing a really good job.
‘My biggest achievement was that the players gave me availability to work hard on the physical, tactical, video analysis aspects, for set-pieces – a lot of different situations if you compare this season with the past one.
‘When you have these types of changes it’s not easy. First, you must find men, and then good players. I found great men, and then really good players.’
Conte noted taking over a team that had finished 10th the season before further highlighted his own desire for big challenges in life, from the moment he took his first managerial job at Arezzo.
Now, on the cusp of another significant achievement, he allowed himself to think for just a second about how he might react if – and it’s a big if - all goes well at The Hawthorns.
‘After one season where you work a lot and you suffer also, if you are able to win and reach your target the celebration moment must be fantastic, but we still have to take three points. After this, I’m sure my players want to celebrate in the right way, and I am the same.’