Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has bemoaned the Premier League fixture schedule which the Italian insists gives Tottenham Hotspur the initiative in the title race - despite the Blues prevailing in a thrilling FA Cup semi-final between the pair. Conte is unhappy with the west Londoners having to face Southampton, who have not played for 10 days, on Tuesday [25 April] while Spurs have 24 hours extra rest prior to taking on on Crystal Palace.
Sam Allardyce's relegation-threatened Eagles meanwhile travel to Liverpool on Sunday [23 April] before hosting Tottenham three days later. Chelsea lead the north Londoners by four points with six games remaining and though they have the easier run-in on paper Conte says the schedule is unfair on his side.
"This week is crucial for us," the Chelsea manager stated after the 4-2 win at Wembley. "This week they have an advantage. Crystal Palace has one day less to rest. Instead we have to play one day earlier against a team that rest for 10 days. Sometimes it is difficult to understand this decision by the officials but we have to accept the situation and answer.
"In this situation it is not easy to understand why. In having one day less than Tottenham, but to have one days less and play Southampton who rest for 10 days. Instead Tottenham has to pay on Wednesday, they have one day more rest."
The fixture pile-up led to Conte resting Chelsea striker Diego Costa and winger Eden Hazard from the start against Tottenham. Harry Kane and Dele Alli cancelled out Willian's double before the pair were eventually introduced, with Hazard providing the telling intervention.
The Belgium international thrashed past Hugo Lloris with 15 minutes to go before teeing up Nemanja Matic to thunder home a fourth to put daylight between themselves and Mauricio Pochettino's side. And Conte said that the reason for Costa and Hazard's omission was again down to demands imposed on his Chelsea side, but refused to confirm whether he had asked for the game to be moved.
"When you arrive at this stage of the season when you know you have to play two tough games, one on the semi-final to reach the final of the FA Cup against a top team," he added. "This game was top of our priority. We also have to play on Tuesday after only three days. It is very important for us against a team who rest for 10 days. Instead Tottenham has one day more to rest and play against Crystal Palace who play on Sunday.
"You must take strong decisions and take responsibility to take this decision because for sure it is not easy. It is not easy to decide to start the game without two really impotent players as Diego and Eden are. I think that we must take this responsibility and must involve your players in your plan and then and take this risk."