Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Conte back at Old Trafford and hoping to celebrate again

Published:Saturday | April 15, 2017 | 4:28 AM
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LONDON (AP):

Antonio Conte can't forget his "great goal" at Old Trafford for Juventus in a Champions League semi-final against Manchester United in 1999.

"I didn't score a lot in my career, and I remember very well when I scored. It was a great goal, and then I remember Ryan Giggs equalised in the last minute," the Chelsea manager said yesterday, ahead of his team facing hosts United in the Premier League tomorrow.

"I remember a great atmosphere, a great stadium and a great team. In the second leg, we were winning 2-0 after 20 minutes and then we lost 3-2," Conte said. United went on to win the Champions League that season.

This time round, a win at Old Trafford would give Conte and Chelsea a major step toward the Premier League title. The league leaders would then require 12 points from their remaining six games to be crowned champions in Conte's first season in charge. It would also hurt United's chances of finishing in the top four and securing a Champions League place.

But Conte is wary, especially as United have gone 21 league games without defeat since their 4-0 mauling by Chelsea in October.

"We face a really strong team physically and technically. United want to find a place in the first four of the table, and they have every possibility of doing that," the Italian said.

Jose Mourinho has already had two miserable defeats inflicted on United this season at Stamford Bridge by his former team.

"You say it's emotional, but, for me, it's a game," Mourinho said. "It's one more game. No different for me, not at all."

Chelsea are unbeaten outside the capital this season, having only lost away league games at London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham. The Blues also have the best away record in the top flight with a 36-point haul from 16 games, and have won their last three games on the road.

Chelsea have also not lost to United since a 3-2 Premier League defeat at Stamford Bridge at the end of October 2012. In 12 meetings since, Chelsea have won seven and drawn five. The last three games at Old Trafford have been draws.

Here is a closer look at Sunday's game:

 

UNHAPPY RETURNS

 

Mourinho's first return to Stamford Bridge since he was fired _ the end of 2015 saw United thrashed 4-0 in October their heaviest league defeat since 2011. The Portuguese received a largely positive reception from fans although many chose to revel in Mourinho's misfortune as each goal went in, some chanting "you're not special anymore".

The two teams also met in an FA Cup quarter-final last month, a match Chelsea won 1-0 and notable for Mourinho's touchline spat with Conte. Mourinho was again the target of chants from some Chelsea fans and responded by raising three fingers to signify the league titles he won with the team.

 

WASTEFUL FINISHING

 

Mourinho was not happy with Manchester United's inability to convert goalscoring chances in their 1-1 Europa League draw against Anderlecht on Thursday.

"If I was a Manchester United defender, I would be very upset with the attacking players," Mourinho said after his team converted only one of its 16 shots on goal.

However, Chelsea have not kept a clean sheet in the Premier League for nine matches.

 

ZLATAN THREAT

 

Despite not finding the net in Belgium on Thursday, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored 17 league goals for United this season, and Conte has been impressed.

"Zlatan is in the top form of his career," Conte said. "He's a great player; he's not only a finisher, but he plays for the team. For me, he is one of the best players in the world."

 

MANCHESTER UNITED - CHELSEA

 

Head-to-head

Premier League

October 2016: Chelsea 4 Man Utd 0

March 2016: Chelsea 1 Man Utd 1

Dec 2015: Man Utd 0 Chelsea 0

April 2015: Chelsea 1 Man Utd 0

October 2014: Man Utd 1 Chelsea 1

January 2014: Chelsea 3 Man Utd 1