Antonio Conte says Chelsea FC must seize the chance to move a step closer to winning the Premier League when the leaders face Arsenal FC in Saturday’s crucial Premier League clash.
Antonio Conte’s side are nine points clear at the top with 15 games remaining and victory over title rivals Arsenal at Stamford Bridge would be a significant moment in the race to replace Leicester as English champions.
Beating the third-placed Gunners would move Chelsea 12 points clear of Arsene Wenger’s side, as well as sending a message to the chasing pack that the Blues are determined to hold onto their lead.
Conte would dearly love to see off Arsenal after the north Londoners’ 3-0 victory at the Emirates Stadium in their previous meeting this season.
That was the most chastening moment of Conte’s first season at Chelsea but the Italian, whose side have lost only one of their last 17 league games, said his side had grown a lot since then.
“It was a bad defeat, 3-0 after the first half. And in my mind it’s present, it’s always present, this defeat,” the 47-year-old former Juventus handler said Friday.
“I hope (it is) also in the mind of my players. I think it’s important to remember the first game against Arsenal.
“A lot of things changed now. For sure we are a team. We want to have a good game tomorrow (Saturday).”
With Chelsea held to a 1-1 draw at Liverpool on Tuesday, Arsenal squandered an opportunity to close the gap as they crashed to a shock 2-1 home defeat against Watford.
Wenger’s side haven’t won at the Bridge since 2011 and they must end that barren run to remain in the title hunt -- they will have to do without Welsh midfield star Aaron Ramsey who is due to be on the sidelines for three weeks with a calf injury.
Wenger, who has not won the title since 2004, says he is looking for his side to bounce back from the Watford reverse.
“I believe what’s most important is that we turn up with a positive performance,” said Wenger.
“We have shown in the first game that we can beat Chelsea so let’s turn up with the same quality and show a straight response.
“What is at stake is how well we respond, in a united way and in a determined way, to get there and play our game.”