Tottenham enjoyed an 'advantage' over Chelsea this season claims Antonio Conte

Chelsea manager believes his job was harder than Mauricio Pochettino's as he steers Chelsea towards the title 

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The Independent Football

Chelsea can pull seven points clear of Tottenham at the top if they beat Middlesbrough on Monday evening, and Antonio Conte is proud of overcoming what he describes as Tottenham’s “advantage” over Chelsea.

Conte’s side are just two wins away from the Premier League title now after seemingly hold off Spurs’ challenge, which effectively ended on Friday night when they lost 1-0 at the London Stadium. It would take a remarkable Chelsea collapse for them not to win the title from here.

But a few hours before Spurs lost, ending the title race, Conte argued at his press conference that in fact his job was harder than Mauricio Pochettino’s this season. Because this is his first season at Chelsea, Conte explained, while it was Spurs’ third season with Pochettino in charge. The implication is that this makes Conte’s achievement, leading the league ahead of Spurs, even greater.

“I must be honest about this topic,” Conte said. “I think that Tottenham have an advantage, if you compare Tottenham to Chelsea. Because Mauricio Pochettino is a really good manager and is working with his team for a third year. In this season, Tottenham had an advantage if you compare Tottenham with Chelsea.”

Spurs finished seven places and 20 points ahead of Chelsea last season, after Jose Mourinho sent his team into meltdown before being sacked in December 2015. Conte has spoken plenty of times this season about how damaged Chelsea were when he took over last summer, and he reiterated on Friday what a repair job he had to do.

Pochettino has long cleared all the players out of Spurs that he does not want there while Conte has not yet overseen a major overhaul of Chelsea players. Most of his team, in fact, were there under Mourinho too.

“Tottenham, last season, fought to win the title and Chelsea arrived 10th,” Conte said. “Tottenham, in their project, have an advantage if you compare them to us. This is my first season and I found a lot of situations, a lot of players. Pochettino has been working there for three years and has changed a lot of players, and is working very well.” 

Spurs have secured second place and are heading for a finish of more than 80 points, which would be a striking achievement and in most years this team would have won the title. Conte again complimented Pochettino on the job he has done at White Hart Lane, although it helpfully underlined the job Conte has himself done at Chelsea.

“For me, Tottenham are a really strong team and it's normal to see them fighting for the title,” Conte said. “This season, if Chelsea had not performed in this way, Tottenham would win the title without difficulty. Only this great season [from Chelsea] is pushing them to fight and, maybe, to win or not to win the title. But, I repeat, Tottenham's position for me is more advanced if you compare Tottenham's to Chelsea.”

Chelsea have not played in Europe this season, unlike Spurs, who were in the Champions League and Europa League. That has played into Conte’s hands, but Conte said that Spurs have the squad to cope. “Don't forget that Tottenham dropped at the group stage, and then dropped in the first game in the Europa League,” Conte said. “If you consider our games and their games, there is a difference of what, eight games? But if you consider the squads, the numbers in each squad, you can see the difference: one team prepared to play the Champions League with 25 or 26 players, and another who prepared to play the league, the FA Cup and the League Cup.”