Antonio has risked another row with Jose Mourinho by claiming he has achieved ‘great’ things in 100 games at Chelsea while it was more ‘simple’ for his rival.
Conte marked his century with a 2-1 victory over Burnley on Thursday night, meaning he has secured 65 wins, compared to Mourinho’s 72 in his first spell at the club.
However, Conte believes he has succeeded in more difficult circumstances. Both managers won the title in their first season, but the Italian took over a team who finished 10th in the Premier League in 2016, whereas Chelsea were runners-up in the top flight the season before Mourinho joined.
Mourinho’s Manchester United are preparing to play Tottenham in their FA Cup semi-final today, before Chelsea face Southampton at Wembley on Sunday.
Asked about his record, Conte said: ‘I could do better. This is my mentality. We could have done better. Mourinho won 72 in the first 100 games? We are talking about a great manager. Don’t forget the first 100 games with Mourinho were many years ago.
‘Now, it is not simple to have this run of results, in this present Chelsea. I’m pleased for the players, for the club, but we could do better.
‘For Mourinho, it was a different era in the club’s history. I won a title with Juventus after they finished seventh twice before I arrived. It is a great, great achievement. Not a simple achievement.
‘Last season we won a title after a 10th place. It’s a great, great achievement. Not a simple achievement. I don’t like the stats. I only found out after the game that it was my 100th game with Chelsea.’
Conte is largely expected to leave at the end of the season and, when asked whether he would want to stay for another 100 games, he avoided the topic. ‘It’s very difficult,’ he said. ‘In the past you could have a story like Arsene Wenger or Sir Alex Ferguson. You must live the present in football, because you don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Or even today.’
While Conte was refusing to theorise about the future, Southampton boss Mark Hughes was looking to the past for inspiration.
The former Chelsea striker told his players to tap into their boyhood dreams and lead Southampton to an FA Cup final tomorrow.
Hughes won four FA Cups as a player but the semi-final will be the first time he has led a team out at Wembley.
‘They have the chance to go to a final, that should be the motivation,’ Hughes said. ‘As a kid, that was one of my main goals. I’d be kicking the ball about in a yard and dreaming of going to play in an FA Cup final. I was able to do it and we have to grab this chance.’
Hughes also said his side will use the pain of last season’s EFL Cup final defeat by Manchester United to spur them to success.
‘They have recent memories to call on and that can help. I enjoyed bigger games as a player because they posed bigger questions.
‘I wanted to be the person people would be talking about afterwards. That’s what I hope my players will think, too. This is the greatest cup competition in the world. We need a huge effort.’
Southampton are struggling in the Premier League and will need an extraordinary recovery to avoid relegation and Hughes, who may rotate his team, concedes it is an uncertain backdrop.
‘The league form will be at the back of our minds,’ Hughes added. ‘But we have to enjoy this. For the players, cup finals are where you make your mark. We don’t want to let this opportunity pass us by.
‘We can use this as a distraction and then we need to win against Bournemouth next week. Then the gloves will be off and we need to go for it. Whatever it takes to get the points.’