Chelsea manager Antonio Conte took a sly swipe at Tottenham Hotspur ahead of Saturday's FA Cup semi-final saying that the moment has arrived when the north London club must decades of underachievement.
Conte having none of Pochettino's 'mind games'
Conte's Premier League leaders are just four points ahead of second-placed Tottenham in a tense title race, but Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino has claimed his team will very much the underdogs at Wembley this weekend. taking the Spurs' boss’ comments as nothing more than mind games meant to add pressure on his players, Conte was quick to turn the spotlight back on Tottenham. It is 56 years since Tottenham were last crowned league champions and their last FA Cup triumph came in 1991.
Spurs last trophy haul was their League Cup triumph in 2008
But led by England internationals Harry Kane and Dele Alli, Tottenham finally look capable of winning major honours and Conte says Pochettino's men need to end the club's nine-year trophy drought.
"There is a moment you have to finish considering yourself an underdog. I think this is the right moment," Conte told reporters ahead of the game. "Tottenham now is a really great power in English football. This is the third year for them under Pochettino and I think it's the right moment to finish talking about being considered an underdog and to find his excuse."
FA Cup semi-final outcome could affect team morale
A Chelsea victory on Saturday would boost morale among Conte's squad as they chase the title. But the Italian downplayed the impact of the result on the Premier League run-in, which resumes for Chelsea against Southampton on Tuesday. "I don't think if one team wins or loses it can affect the other competition," he added.
The Italian coach also revealed Gary Cahill is set to miss the semi-final after being taken to hospital with gastroenteritis. "He arrived at the training ground with a bit of fever. Our doctor preferred to bring him to the hospital and to check his condition. Not a serious problem, but now Gary is getting better and is improving a lot. If you ask me for tomorrow, my answer is it is very difficult. This period is not a lucky period for us."