Chelsea must not be distracted by Mourinho return, warns Conte

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The infamous ex-Blues manager returns to his old ground in the Premier League on Sunday, but the former Italy head coach doesn’t want it to become a distraction for his players.

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Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has warned his players not to be distracted by the return of Jose Mourinho to Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

The Blues take on Manchester United in the Premier League in the first meeting with their former boss since his departure from west London last December.

Conte believes Mourinho is deserving of a warm reception from the club’s supporters but wants his players to focus on the prize of victory once the first whistle is blown.

“We have a tough game against a strong team in Manchester United,” Conte told reporters. “It is not against Jose Mourinho. It is important, I repeat, to focus on the pitch, on the players of Manchester United, and to prepare in the right way.

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“It is normal in this situation, when a coach or manager comes back to a club where he has done a lot of positive things, it is normal to talk about him. But it is important for us to focus and concentrate on the game.

“It is right for him to have a good reception. Then when the whistle sounds, it’s important to start and play, to see United as an enemy, an opponent.

Mourinho left Chelsea seven months after winning the Premier League title with the club languishing only one point above the relegation zone.

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Many of the players who helped him to win the 2014-15 championship remain at the club but Conte says he has not spoken to them about his opposite number.

“I must be honest, I didn’t talk,” he said. “I didn’t talk to my players about Jose Mourinho because I think this topic isn’t an important topic because he comes back a coach who won three titles with Chelsea and won with many players who are still here.

“But, for us, what is important is Manchester United and playing against a team, not just Jose Mourinho. For this reason, I didn’t speak to them about Jose Mourinho.”

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Mourinho brought Chelsea their first title in 50 years when he was hired by Roman Abramovich in 2004. The Russian owner will celebrate his 50th birthday on Monday and Conte admitted that it would be nice to give him the gift of victory.

“I hope [so],” he added. “I think he deserves this for his commitment in Chelsea. The players want to give him this gift.”

He joked: “Also, it is right to ask Manchester United [to give him the win], also.”

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