Conte's worry - Spot in Champions League

Handshake with Mourinho ends dispute but Blues' slump may deepen as City are up next

Romelu Lukaku holding off the challenge of Marcos Alonso while scoring Manchester United's equaliser against Chelsea. His assist for Jesse Lingard's winner on Sunday kept Chelsea outside the league's top four.
Romelu Lukaku holding off the challenge of Marcos Alonso while scoring Manchester United's equaliser against Chelsea. His assist for Jesse Lingard's winner on Sunday kept Chelsea outside the league's top four.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte shook hands and ended their feud, while the Chelsea manager admitted that the champions might again finish outside the top four following defeat by Manchester United on Sunday.

United's 2-1 win over the Blues at Old Trafford moved them back into second position in the English Premier League table, six points ahead of Chelsea (53 points) in fifth.

The two managers entered the match having fallen out because of a war of words early last month.

Yet they shook hands before and after and shared a smile during the game.

Mourinho said: "The handshake doesn't need any words. I think that's what me and Antonio want to show to everyone and the handshake before and after the match is an example that in football you have to respect each other.

"Mourinho and Conte are not two ordinary persons in football, we have a history, an image and I'm really happy with that."

Asked if he and the Portuguese had clear-the-air talks beforehand, Conte said: "No, no, but I think that you wanted to see the shake hands and we did at least. (Now) stop, it's over."

What is of concern to the Italian is the possibility that Chelsea may again miss out on a Champions League berth.

  • Premier League talking points


    It is not only Liverpool's quality in attack that shows Jurgen Klopp has built a team of genuine substance and one that should emerge as Manchester City's closest challengers.

    West Ham were awkward on Saturday, yet the hosts turned a difficult fight into a routine win.

    Depth was evident, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner excellent in midfield. The quality of the full-backs, Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, also underlined both Klopp's options and his ability to develop players.


    Dele Alli left the pitch to jeers, following Tottenham's 1-0 win against Crystal Palace after going to ground easily under challenges from Patrick van Aanholt and Wayne Hennessey.

    The England international has been booked twice for simulation this season. But both Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino and Palace boss Roy Hodgson, who handed Alli his England debut in 2015, defended the 21-year-old.


    Huddersfield Town looked doomed a few weeks ago. David Wagner's side had lost five league matches on the spin, failed to win in eight and relegation loomed. Yet they responded with six goals and six points in their last two matches to put a little daylight between themselves and the bottom three - a firm reminder what an excellent job Wagner is doing as manager.


This previously occurred two years ago following Mourinho's sacking as Chelsea manager.

"This could be our position for sure," said Conte.

"In this league, to find a place in Champions League is not simple.

"This is the risk - we must be ready to fight and be ready to understand this, to be concentrated and to understand that this target is an important target for us but it won't be easy."

He lamented his side's game-management during a costly defeat - their third loss in four league games - despite Willian's opener.

Chelsea had not lost when scoring first since a 2-1 reverse to Crystal Palace last April but paid for the impact of Romelu Lukaku, their inspired former striker, who scored the equaliser and set up Jesse Lingard's winner that left Conte increasingly concerned.

The Blues return to Manchester on Sunday for a showdown with Premier League leaders City and the Chelsea head coach did little to disguise the difficulties confronting his side.

"After the start we had, we had every chance to get three points towards a place in the Champions League," he said.

"But again we are talking about another defeat and we must be disappointed. When you have this type of situation, you have to manage the game better - and you must be able to use experience and maturity to get three points."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2018, with the headline 'CONTE'S WORRY - SPOT IN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE'. Subscribe