Pre Match Press Conference: Conte says ‘these are the two Chelsea men I blame for my injury’, refuses to rule out selling Courtois

ANTONIO CONTE has jokingly blamed Chelsea coaches Carlo Cudicini and Steve Holland for his calf injury.

Antonio Conte took the players for a run during a training session yesterday at the club’s Cobham base.

But the 47-year-old showed his age when he pulled up, clutching his calf.

Reports suggested it wasn’t nothing too serious.

And when asked about how his calf injury came about, Conte said: “I have a big problem in my calf… but the fault is Carlo Cudicini and Steve Holland because I wanted to run with them and I paid for it because they ran very strong.

“I am getting better.”

But Conte doesn’t intend to put his feet up in the dugout during the game against Stoke tomorrow (3pm).

When asked whether he will sit down, he added: “No, no, no, no, no!

“But during the game against Crystal Palace I suffered a lot by standing up.”

Antonio Conte: This is the latest on Thibaut Courtois’ future

ANTONIO CONTE refused to rule out Chelsea selling Thibaut Courtois.

The Belgian goalkeeper has been linked with a move to Real Madrid.

And although the Chelsea boss is clearly a fan of Courtois, he stopped short of saying he would not be sold.

Conte said: “I think it’s not important to clarify the situation.

“For me [he’s] one of the best, if not the best, goalkeepers in the world.

“He’s working very well, he’s fantastic, that’s the most important thing.

“The rest is only speculation.”

The Italian was asked what Courtois could improve on and added: “He’s playing very well, he’s a complete, modern goalkeeper.

“I don’t want to call him the best as he’s my player, but he’s at the top.”

Conte rejects Wenger’s favourites tag

Antonio Conte has praised his Chelsea team for changing people’s perceptions but dismissed Arsene Wenger’s attempt to label them “super favourites” for the Premier League title.

In a move that could be interpreted as the veteran Arsenal manager firing the first shots in this term’s title race mind-games, Wenger claimed the top-flight crown is “[Chelsea’s] to lose” after they stormed to a six-point advantage at the summit thanks to a winning run of 12 successive matches.

Stoke City will be the next team to try and halt Conte’s juggernaut when they visit Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
And the ex-Italy and Juventus boss has been impressed by the players’ turnaround from the shambolic title defence of last season that heralded his arrival.

“I think it is very difficult to reply to this question because I think that we have played only 18 games and there are 20 games to finish this season,” he said when Wenger’s remarks were put to him at a pre-match news conference.

“At the start of the season I think not one person, not one coach and not one journalist trusted in this team to fight for the title this season because we came after a bad season. Our [transfer] market wasn’t good for some people but now I am pleased that the opinion is changing.

“I am a bit worried because when the opinion changes quickly you must pay attention. We have only six points more than the second team [Liverpool] and seven than the third team [Manchester City].

“The way is long but, I repeat, I am pleased for me and the players if someone is changing his opinion.
“It is not easy, this league that we are doing very well in. I think that 12 wins in a row is a great achievement but it is not enough to win the league at this point of the season.”

The fact that Liverpool and City meet in a mouth-watering clash on New Year’s Eve could play further into Chelsea’s hands, but Conte is looking no further than tackling Mark Hughes’ side, who are looking to respond to a 4-1 reverse suffered at Anfield on Tuesday.

“I hope to keep this run also because we will have a tough game against Stoke City. We must pay great attention if we want to continue in this way,” he added.

“It’s important for us to beat Stoke City and then to think about this question [the strength of Chelsea’s position].

“Then, as I said before, we remain after tomorrow 19 games [to go]. It’s a long way before we arrive at the end of the season.”

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