LONDON • Jose Mourinho should be given a warm welcome when he returns to Stamford Bridge tomorrow, Chelsea manager Antonio Conte emphasised yesterday.
The Italian, who took over in July after Guus Hiddink had stepped in when Mourinho was fired last term, added that the Manchester United manager, who guided Chelsea to three league titles, merited his place in the club's folklore.
"I have great respect for him," said Conte.
"He was an important man for the club. I think he deserves a good reception, because he wrote with the club, with his players, with the staff, part of the story of this club.
"When you win three championships, you remain in the heart of the fans. After the whistle, he becomes like the other players of Manchester United - an enemy, in the sporting aspect."
Conte, who also said that captain John Terry has recovered from an ankle injury and will be available for tomorrow's game, will face Mourinho with Chelsea two points better off than United in fifth spot.
Mourinho said yesterday that Stanford Bridge is no longer a lucky ground for him.
The Portuguese said: "When I played there with Inter, before that, I never lost a match at Stamford Bridge because I had that home record. Now I have lost a few matches... so I cannot use the same words."
Mourinho insisted that he has not been paying special attention to how Conte has been doing. "They are in a good position, so the start of the season cannot be bad if they are where they are," he said.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS