Antonio Conte claims Arsenal ‘are favourites’ for FA Cup final

Date published: Monday 22nd May 2017 7:34 - Rob McCarthy

Antonio Conte warned Chelsea of the “danger” ahead in their quest for a Premier League and FA Cup double, saying Arsenal are favourites for next Saturday’s Wembley clash after they missed out on Champions League qualification.

Chelsea won for a record 30th time this season on Sunday, beating relegated Sunderland 5-1 before picking up the the Premier League trophy.

And Conte now wants to complete the double in his first season as Chelsea head coach.

“This is the real danger for us, to think that this season is finished,” Conte said.

“To win the title this season becomes great. This season can become fantastic if we are able to win the FA Cup. We must find the right motivation.

“It’s important for us to celebrate, but then to find the right fire in our soul to be ready to work very hard this week to prepare and to feel in the right way this game.

“This is a great opportunity to win and to do the double.”

Arsenal missed out on the top four for the first time in manager Arsene Wenger’s near 21-year tenure, finishing fifth and failing to qualify for Europe’s elite club competition.

Conte added: “If you ask me who is the favourite now, I can tell (you) it’s Arsenal.

“Arsenal now has only this possibility to find a good season after a win in the FA Cup. For this reason we must pay great attention.

“We must find in ourselves the right motivation, the right anger. The game will be very difficult.

“After I don’t know how many years Arsenal missed the Champions League. We must have our antenna very high and prepare in the right way.

“I’m not talking about tactical game, I’m talking about motivation, right fire in ourselves, in our soul, in our heart.

“If we have this in the same proportion as Arsenal, or more, we have the possibility to do the double. Otherwise we risk a lot.”

Conte has presided over the restoration of a team which finished 10th last season in defence of the 2014-15 title.

The Italian described this season as one of transition and he respectfully handled John Terry’s departure after 22 years.

The 36-year-old defender retained his place, making his 717th appearance and last as a Chelsea player at Stamford Bridge.

There was a celebratory air and an initial atmosphere like a testimonial before Terry’s pre-planned substitution midway through the first half.

It was 1-1 then. Willian cancelled out Javier Manquillo’s third-minute opener before goals from Eden Hazard, Pedro and a late double from Michy Batshuayi secured a comprehensive win.

“It was very difficult to imagine this final, to celebrate a win in the league,” Conte said.

“But it happened and it happened only because we worked very hard with my players.

“It’s great to finish the season in this way, to celebrate a fantastic season. We won the league with 30 wins.

“Someone could think that this season was easy. But this season wasn’t easy.

“We overcame a lot of difficult steps, but now for this reason we must be proud to celebrate with our fans, with our family, to have this day together.”

Pedro scored as a substitute, so did striker Batshuayi, who now has four goals in three games, including the title-clinching strike at West Brom.

The performances of Pedro, Batshuayi and Willian have given Conte a selection headache for Wembley.

“I tried to find the best solution for us to bring all my players in the right form,” Conte said.

“This season showed who came on from the bench was decisive for us. This season, but also today.

“It means I’m very good at substitutions! I’m very lucky.”

Batshuayi is finishing a season which has seen him make one Premier League start and 19 substitute appearances well.

He replaced Diego Costa and may get more opportunities if Costa leaves this summer.

“This is another weapon for the final,” Conte said.

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