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Antonio Conte labels Jose Mourinho an 'the enemy' ahead of crunch clash

SoccerBy Sunday World
Antonio Conte labels Jose Mourinho an 'the enemy' ahead of crunch clash

Antonio Conte has praised predecessor Jose Mourinho's impact at Chelsea ahead of the self-proclaimed Special One's return with Manchester United, but suggested he will be the enemy at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Mourinho won his third Premier League title with Chelsea in May 2015 before his second spell came to an end seven months later, with the Blues perilously close to the relegation zone.

Since the Portuguese, who won two league titles in his first spell between June 2004 and September 2007 before returning in June 2013, has been appointed Manchester United manager and he will manage in opposition at Stamford Bridge.

"I have great respect for him," said Chelsea head coach Conte, who was appointed Mourinho's permanent successor in April and began his job in July.

"He won three championships and I think he was an important man for the club.

"I think he deserves a good reception, because he wrote with the club, with his players, with the staff part of the story of this club.

"When you win three championships, you remain in the heart of the fans. It's normal.

"After the whistle, he becomes like the other players of Manchester United an enemy, in the sporting aspect."

Conte last week laughed off suggestions he was facing the sack before guiding Chelsea to a 3-0 defeat of Premier League champions Leicester.

Manchester United have since played twice - a goalless draw at Liverpool on Monday, when Mourinho's defensive tactics were criticised by some commentators, and in Thursday night's Europa League win over Fenerbahce.

Conte anticipates another tactical encounter when Mourinho's United visit.

"Also on Sunday it will be a tactical game," Conte said.

The fallow week was not favourable for Chelsea, Conte claimed.

"I don't want this type of advantage," he added. "This means you don't play in Champions League or Europa League. I think Chelsea must play during the week, this type of tournament."

Conte has fielded three central defenders in the past two games, without conceding a goal.

The Italian believes his players are improving in the formation and suggested he was likely to stick with it against United.

"I'm pleased, because after many games that we conceded two and sometimes three goals - and I repeat this is not right, this is not a good way for Chelsea to concede so many goals - we change it, we change the system of play," Conte added.

"We know we must continue to work and progress in this way. I'm pleased because in this week I'm seeing the right commitment, the right work rate for the players. I see players that trust in this system, in this type of work."

Cesc Fabregas and Branislav Ivanovic remain out with minor muscular injuries, while Conte is still to decide whether or not to field Willian and Oscar, who missed the Leicester match on compassionate leave following family bereavements.

Captain John Terry was an unused substitute against Leicester and is in contention to feature again after another full week of training.