(Reuters) - Victory against Liverpool on Sunday will be the ideal platform for Chelsea to mount a late charge to finish in the Premier League’s top four, manager Antonio Conte said on Friday.
Chelsea are currently fifth in the table with 66 points from 35 games, with the top four teams qualifying for next season’s Champions League. They trail third-placed Liverpool by six points and fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur by five points.
“This could be a good opportunity for us,” Conte told a news conference. “But as I have said a lot of times, if we want to keep our hopes alive we have to win. Liverpool are a good team and it won’t be easy.”
Liverpool come into the game on the back of a thrilling 7-6 aggregate victory over AS Roma in the Champions League semi-final.
Conte pointed to the Merseyside club’s 5-2 thrashing of the Serie A side in the first leg at Anfield to highlight Liverpool’s devastating attacking threat.
“We must pay great attention. Their first leg against Roma showed that if you give them space behind the defensive line they are dangerous. You could have trouble during the game,” the Italian coach said.
“They have three special players in (Sadio) Mane, (Roberto) Firmino and (Mohamed) Salah. They are very good at attacking the space. We must be compact and prepare in the right way.”
British media reports have said Conte’s tenure at Stamford Bridge could end in the close season.
Asked if clinching a top-four spot or winning the FA Cup could change that, Conte said: “I think now our target is to finish in the best possible way and try to fight for a place in the Champions League.
“It won’t be easy because the situation is not in our hands but we have to try. Then we will see what happens.”
Chelsea take on Manchester United in this month’s FA Cup final. “For sure we want to give satisfaction to our fans. It won’t be easy against Manchester United but we want to do our best until the end,” Conte added.
Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge