Top-club Chelsea harder to manage than Burnley - Antonio Conte
LONDON - Antonio Conte praised the "great job" that Sean Dyche is doing with Burnley this season ahead of Chelsea's trip to Turf Moor on Thursday, but claimed that it is easier to manage successfully at a club below the level of Europe's elite.
Dyche has led Burnley to seventh in the Premier League this season after 33 matches, just two points adrift of Arsenal, and is poised to oversee the club's first qualification for European competition since since 1967.
Conte, by contrast, has endured a more disappointing campaign at Stamford Bridge, with Chelsea eliminated by Barcelona 4-1 on aggregate in the Champions League round of 16 and set to miss out on qualification for next season's competition, having failed to mount a significant Premier League title defence.
But speaking in a news conference on Wednesday, Conte -- who began his coaching career battling against relegation at Arezzo and Bari -- insisted that he has the more difficult job.
"He is doing an important job, a great job this season," Conte said of Dyche. "But if you start the season to fight to avoid the relegation zone it is more simple, also if you have a small budget, because you can count on a team that in the past you reached the qualification to play again in the league [with].
"It is more difficult when you have to prepare the transfer market to win something because only one team wins, and the others must see [them] win."
Asked to elaborate on why he thinks coaching Chelsea is a harder task than managing Burnley, Conte added: "Because you have to avoid the last three places at the bottom [of the league] and then you can stay between 10 teams that play only for this target.
"And then, if you have a good base and you in the previous season played very well you can count on this. You have to fight only to avoid [relegation]. It is difficult if you have to play to win because only one team wins and the others don't.
"You are the first to speak about a failed season if you don't win the FA Cup, league, League Cup. It is a failure season and for this reason it is more difficult to play for this target."
Conte is expected to leave Chelsea at the end of the season after months of public and private tensions with the club hierarchy over transfer policy, and his standing has been further weakened by a sharp decline in results since the turn of the year.
Asked if he would describe this Chelsea season as a failure if they end without a top-four finish or a trophy, Conte replied: "It is not important. We have to finish our season, our job and then there is [the club] who has to judge if the season is a failure or not. This is not my job."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.