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Aug, 21, 2012

Conte confident of ban overturn

Juventus coach Antonio Conte believes his 10-month suspension for allegedly failing to report match-fixing during his time in charge of Siena will be overturned in time for the start of the season.

Conte was handed the ban - with his assistant, Angelo Alessio, banned for eight months - by an Italian Football Federation panel (FIGC), but believes he could be back in charge of the first team when they begin the defence of their Serie A title against Parma at the weekend.

He was in court on Monday as the appeal against his punishment was heard.

At the start of this month, Conte submitted a plea bargain under which he was willing to accept a three-month suspension and a €200,000 fine, but the FIGC said it believed that was not a sufficient punishment for the alleged offence.

He told Gazzetta dello Sport: "If I was offered just a three-month ban today, my answer would be no. I fully agree with the judges that a 90-day suspension would not be a fair punishment - because the right amount of days should be zero. I didn't do anything wrong, or neglect to report what I knew.

"I'm convinced [the appeal judges] will weigh up the evidence and, with due diligence, avoid any injustice. I have a clear conscience, but I cannot say the same about those who threw mud at me.

"I repeat again my confidence in the judges - my presence in the courtroom was sign of respect towards them. I listened to my lawyers and, from what I've heard, they are very calm and confident that, against Parma, I will return to the bench."

Conte's lawyers sought to discredit the testimony of key witness Filippo Carobbio, a former Siena defender who accused Conte of having been involved in match-fixing while the pair were working together at the club.

The Juventus coach said: "Carobbio continued to change his statement like a chameleon, tailored to what [prosecutor Stefano] Palazzi wanted to hear."

Carobbio alleged that Conte had instructed his squad to try to fix games against Novara and Albinoleffe during pre-match team-talks, but the coach said: "Would I have been so stupid to leave myself open to blackmail from 25 players?"

The outcome of the appeal hearing is expected to be announced on Wednesday.

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