Conte eyes redemption

Chelsea's Alvaro Morata scoring their first goal past Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel in Sunday's FA Cup quarter-final. Jamie Vardy equalised before Pedro's extra-time header sent the Blues into the semi-finals.
Chelsea's Alvaro Morata scoring their first goal past Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel in Sunday's FA Cup quarter-final. Jamie Vardy equalised before Pedro's extra-time header sent the Blues into the semi-finals.PHOTO: REUTERS

Chelsea boss targets FA Cup to save season; it is also United & Spurs' only realistic shot

LONDON • Antonio Conte remains on course to avenge defeat in the FA Cup final last season, after Pedro's extra-time header squeezed Chelsea past Leicester 2-1 on Sunday and secured passage into the last four.

The outgoing Premier League champions will face Southampton at Wembley next month, with Manchester United and Tottenham meeting in the other semi-final.

Chelsea were denied a league and Cup double last term after losing to Arsenal in the final, but are aiming to make amends this time around in the Cup as their league title defence is over.

"This trophy is very important, very important in this country," Conte said. "There is great consideration given to this trophy. Last season, it was a pity to lose the final.

"To celebrate the double with the players (would have been special). This season our target is to try and do our best and reach the final again this season.

"When we are able to reach the final, I want to try to change the final result compared to last season.

"But this is not an easy draw. As you know very well, I think when you arrive at this point of the tournament it's very difficult to consider a game 'easy'."

  • English football talking points

  • 1 WAN-BISSAKA A BURGEONING TALENT

    A long casualty list is a big reason for Crystal Palace's woes this term, but missing first-team stalwarts has not been all negative.

    If Joel Ward had not got injured and Timothy Fosu-Mensah not been unavailable, then Roy Hodgson probably would not have turned to Aaron Wan-Bissaka against Tottenham last month. The 20-year-old has shone at right-back since, never more so than during Saturday's 2-0 win at Huddersfield.

    His emergence, plus the return of several key players and a benign fixture list, mean Palace are unlikely to drop back into the relegation zone.

    2 GABBIADINI CAN FIRE SAINTS TO SAFETY

    Goals have been a problem for Southampton all season, although reinstating Manolo Gabbiadini to the starting line-up against Wigan in the FA Cup quarter-final on Sunday suggests new manager Mark Hughes believes in the Italy international.

    It was his first full game this year and Hughes said his performance, despite missing from the spot, in the 2-0 win "showed enough" and "when he is properly match fit, he can be a real threat". Southampton are two points adrift of safety in 18th position in the Premier League with eight games left to play and will travel to West Ham, one place above them, on March 31.

    3 LOOKS LIKE CURTAINS FOR STOKE

    Is it all over for Stoke? There are three points between the Potters and safety, but the 1-2 loss to Everton on Saturday was the kind of form that smacks of relegation.

    Playing well and still losing is rarely a good sign and this defeat may be crucial. Stoke have 27 points with seven games left, but three of those are against teams in the top six and another is against Burnley.

    Forty points look beyond Paul Lambert and his team now, which may be why a rallying cry was lacking from his post-match assessment. Ten seasons in the Premier League may have come to an end in the snow at Goodison Park.

    THE GUARDIAN

HARD TO PLEASE

It is very difficult to work with him because he always wants more and more. Even if you win the league, he wants to win again next season. He is like this and the players need to be ready for that.

NEMANJA MATIC, United midfielder, on his boss Jose Mourinho's demanding standards.

United's 2-0 win over Brighton in the quarter-finals on Saturday kept alive their only realistic chance of winning a trophy this season after their exit from the Champions League last week.

But midfielder Nemanja Matic said that the Red Devils cannot consider their season to be a successful one even if they win the Cup.

"You have four competitions in the season - if you win one for me it is not enough, but you always have to do your best," he told the British media.

"In the Premier League, when you are in the first four this is not perfect but is good to play for the Champions League next season.

"If you win the FA Cup I cannot say it is a successful season, but it's a good season."

After the win over Brighton, Mourinho hailed Matic as "an island of personality, desire and control" while criticising others for a lacklustre showing.

"He (Mourinho) is special because he wants to win always. You can see when we lose a game he cannot accept that. Probably that's why he won more than 20 trophies in his life," the Serb added.

"It is very difficult to work with him because he always wants more and more. Even if you win the league, he wants to win again next season. He is like this and the players need to be ready for that."

Tottenham, whose last FA Cup victory was in 1991, are hoping to go all the way to the final and win their first trophy since lifting the 2008 League Cup under Juande Ramos.

Winning domestic cup competitions is always one of the targets in every season but manager Mauricio Pochettino said Spurs must build a winning culture in major competitions like the Premier League and Champions League to develop as a club.

"I never said that it's not important to win this competition," said the Argentinian.

"This type of competition is about enjoying the process and about enjoying when you lift the trophy, but it's not going to give a different level or status as winning the Premier League or the Champions League to put the club on a higher level.

"For me, when you are consistently winning in the Premier League or the best competition in the world like the Champions League, that helps you to create (a winning mentality)."

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 20, 2018, with the headline 'Conte eyes redemption'. Print Edition | Subscribe