Cheeky Conte dares Spurs to be top team
Antonio Conte has thumped Mauricio Pochettino's claim that Spurs are underdogs for today's mouth-watering FA Cup semi-final at Wembley back over the net and thrown down a challenge.
Homing in on Spurs' unenviable reputation as big-time chokers, he called on Pochettino to finally throw off the underdog tag and take control of his own destiny.
"Tottenham are a really great power in English football, they are working for three years," he said.
"But there is a moment you have to finish to be considered underdogs, this is the moment.
"They are a great team and they are showing for the second year to fight for the title. Last year they missed this but they are doing it again and are full of great, strong players.
"They are building something important," added Conte.
Aware that all eyes are now on Chelsea, none more sharply than Pochettino and his players, to see how they respond to a morale-pummelling Premier League defeat by Manchester United, Conte was at pains to separate the two competitions.
"This is the oldest and very important for the club, and then there is the Premier League. They are two different competitions.
"The most important thing for us is to be focused on the present and continue to do what we are doing now, to finish a good season for us.
"In this moment it is very important for the club because we are building a foundation. To fight for the title and play in the semi-final it means together we are doing a great job."
Conte recalls Thibaut Courtois after he was injured during a commercial video shoot before the United defeat and had no words of criticism for his goalkeeper.
"The most important thing is he recovered and he trained with us this week. This is the most important thing, then I speak with my club and the conversation is kept private.
"Commercial work is important to a club, it is very important. It is important always to have a good link and then have the best decision to improve."
Conte was expecting John Terry's recent announcement but would clearly prefer that the Chelsea skipper didn't leave.
"John, for me in this first season, is very important. He is helping me on and off the pitch.
"He is a great captain, the problem is that John wants to play regularly and for this reason we have to respect his decision.
"I was a footballer and when you arrive in this point of your career, and your body tells you to continue it is right to. We have to respect his decision.
"If you ask me if next season it is a serious loss? Yes, I think so. I am seeing what John is doing this season in the changing room. We are building a foundation and he is important to this.
"It is not easy because this season, some players are very important for this team that wrote a lot of history in this club. Ivanovic, Mikel and next season also John. It is not easy to find the right replacement.
"It is for this reason that we have to build and start to build and embrace these players to stay here for many years and create great things for this club.
"Now we have to find the players to replace these players. But it won't be easy," claimed Conte.