Chelsea title-fight blip has Antonio Conte thinking about when his Juventus side blew huge Serie A lead
Last week, they looked like certainties. Now there could be a race on.
And for Antonio Conte, it is all worryingly familiar.
As he watched Match Of The Day on Saturday night, picking through the wreckage of that shock defeat to Crystal Palace, the Chelsea manager looked for ways to ensure there would be no repeat of one of his worst days in football.
It came in the 1999-2000 Serie A season.
Conte was then a player at Juventus, who had led Lazio by nine points going into late March.
Lazio, then managed by some bloke named Sven Goran Eriksson, kept fighting and clinched the title on the final day — Conte famously claimed later not to have slept for nearly a week afterwards.
“Yes, it’s true,” he said on Tuesday, ahead of their midweek home game against Manchester City.
“But these experiences are very important. For this reason, I try to keep the concentration from the start until the end during the game.
“Football is wonderful for this reason. Anything can happen.
"I lost this title against Lazio but, two years later, we won the title against Inter in the last game. If Inter had won, they’d have won the title, but they lost and we beat Udinese and won it instead.
“Football gives a lot of joy, but sometimes, yes, it’s not simple.”
Conte – a three-time title winner as Juventus boss – was more at ease than the bewildered figure he cut at Stamford Bridge after Saturday’s shock defeat.
But he conceded the final few furlongs of his first Premier League title race will be far tougher than the merry dance he led his Serie A title rivals between 2012 and 2014.
“In my first season at Juventus, we were behind but overcame Milan and won the title late on,” he said. “That was a great season because we started as underdogs.
“In the second and third seasons, Juventus showed themselves to be stronger than the others.
"The competition wasn’t so tough, like in England. Here, in every game, you must think that anything can happen, if you don’t face the game in the right way. But not only this – against Crystal Palace, we played a good game but we still lost.
“This is the great difference between England and Italy. In Italy, it’s easier to manage this situation.”
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Conte admitted he is hungry for the win that will flush Saturday’s setback out of his system.
“After a defeat, I stay at home,” he said. “It’s very difficult to go out. I have to reflect on the defeat.
“I needed to understand the reason. To understand our performance. I needed to take the right information about our game and I tried to watch the game early.
“After I watched the game, I wasn’t happy. But my wife knows me very well. She understands my mood in that moment.”
HOW SVEN GAVE ANTONIO SLEEPLESS NIGHTS...
Antonio Conte was a player with Juventus 17 years ago, when they led Sven Goran Erikson’s Lazio by nine points with just eight games remaining.
But it was the Romans who clinched the Serie A title on the final day of the season, after Juve lost to Perugia.
Are Chelsea still going to win this title?
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