London (AFP) – Chelsea manager Antonio Conte hopes his side can benefit from any lessening of intensity in Liverpool’s play after their Champions League semi-final triumph when they face the Reds in the Premier League on Sunday.
Liverpool lost 4-2 to Roma at the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday but still went through 7-6 on aggregate as they booked their place in a final with holders Real Madrid.
Chelsea are in pursuit of a Champions League spot for next season — they are six points behind third-placed Liverpool with a game in hand heading into this weekend’s clash at Stamford Bridge.
“This could be a good opportunity for us,” Conte said on Friday.
“As I said a lot of times in the last three games, if we want to keep the hope alive we have to win. We have to get three points.
“Liverpool are a good team. It won’t be easy, but if we want to keep alive the hope, we have to try to win, to get three points on Sunday.”
Tottenham sit fourth, five points clear of Chelsea, but with Spurs still to play games against West Brom, Newcastle and Leicester, it is Liverpool in Conte’s sights.
The Merseysiders could be denied Champions League football next season by a combination of finishing outside the top four and losing to Real in the final.
If Conte’s deposed champions win their remaining three fixtures they will, at worst, finish level on points with Jurgen Klopp’s side, although Liverpool’s far superior goal difference means just a point on Sunday or victory against Brighton on the final day of the season should suffice.
Meanwhile Conte, who expects to have a fully fit squad for the match at Stamford Bridge, refused to comment about Manchester United forward Anthony Martial, amid reports the striker wants to leave Old Trafford.
“I think this is not the right moment to speak about this. I don’t like to talk about players of other teams,” said Conte.
“It’s disrespectful for the other players, for my players, for the other clubs.”
The Italian added: “I think now our target, our focus is to finish in the best possible way, to try to fight for a place in the Champions League. It won’t be easy. The situation is not in our hands.
“But we have to try and start with three points against Liverpool. Then we’ll see what happens.
“We have another final in the FA Cup. For sure we want to give satisfaction to our fans. It won’t be easy against Manchester United, but we want to try to do our best until the end.”