Ahead of tonight’s FA Cup fifth-round meeting with Hull City, Antonio Conte has been discussing the reasons why flourishing in cup competitions is different from achieving success in the league.
The Italian leads his side into tonight’s game against the Championship side, who will be without Chelsea loanees Ola Aina , Fikayo Tomori
and Michael Hector, just four days before our Champions League campaign resumes with a home game against Barcelona.
The Blues came extremely close to winning the Double last season but narrowly missed out after being beaten by Arsenal in the FA Cup final, and Conte spoke about the challenges teams face when trying to win a cup.
‘I think that I reached many finals, last season with Chelsea as well, but as you know, in the cup competitions the team who deserves it doesn’t always win,’ he explained. ‘In the league the team who deserves it wins, the team who performs with consistency all season to be the best.
‘In the cup there are different factors. You can face a team in a difficult moment and beat them, or the opposite can happen. To win a cup is different to winning the league. In the league you must have consistency. In the cup you make a mistake once and you lose.’
Alvaro Morata made his return from injury in Monday’s win against West Bromwich Albion, coming off the bench for the last half-hour and going close with a good effort from outside the penalty area which was well saved by Ben Foster.
Tonight’s game will provide the Spanish striker with another opportunity to build on his match fitness.
‘ Morata started training with us last week, from Saturday,’ said the Blues boss. ‘Now he’s training with regularity. Tonight is another good step for him to prepare himself for the Barcelona game, then I have to make the best decision for the starting 11.
‘All of the players in my squad are playing. There are none who are staying out and not playing for a long period. For me, it’s a necessity to make the rotations, I’m not worried because I count on all of them, every player in my squad.’
With Premier League trips to both Manchester clubs, as well as a home London derby against Crystal Palace, sandwiched in between the two games against Barcelona, we face a testing period over the course of the next month.
Conte is hopeful his team will be able to secure our place in the FA Cup quarter-finals at the first time of asking and avoid having to play another fixture.
‘To play tonight is good for us because we have three days to prepare for the game against Barcelona but, at the same time, between those games we have three big matches in the league. If we were lucky to play tonight, we are very unlucky to have this schedule between two games against Barca. We have to play Barca, United, City, Crystal Palace and Barca.
‘We had a replay against Norwich so I hope to win the game and go to the next round without a replay.’
The Italian, who said Gary Cahill is in contention for tonight’s game, spoke about the Chelsea captain following the news earlier this week that Hull’s Ryan Mason has retired after fracturing his skull in an accidental collision with the Chelsea defender last January.
‘When you play and you always behave with great honesty, and we are talking about a top player in terms of his commitment before, during and after the game, this type of situation can happen,’ said our manager. ‘I was a player and my team-mate broke my leg when I was 16. I risked ending my career and it was an unlucky situation.
‘Gary is a fantastic guy, a fantastic person and he must be okay because it’s not his fault. I must be honest, I haven’t spoken with him. If I have to go and speak with him it means there is a problem and I don’t see a problem because that’s football.
‘This type of situation can happen but the most important thing is there was no will to do that. We are very sad about this news but this is football and you have to try to accept these bad situations because they can happen.’