The Blues boss has warned his players that they will have to be at their best to win the cup after they missed out in the final last season
Chelsea face a much tougher challenge to win the FA Cup this season than they did when they reached the final last term as they gear up for Sunday’s semi-final against Southampton.
The two sides meet at Wembley to decide who will face Manchester United in the final after Jose Mourinho’s side beat Tottenham in the other tie on Saturday.
Chelsea won the Premier League last term but fell short of winning the FA Cup when they lost to Arsenal, but this year the Stamford Bridge side will be punching above their weight if they make it to the decider.
Chelsea are fifth in the English top flight and hoping to finish in a Champions League qualification spot and win the FA Cup to salvage their season.
And Conte hopes to see his players adopt his winning mentality and make amends for last year’s collapse to Arsene Wenger’s men, which still disappoints him.
“I must be honest and I think that last season we missed a great chance to win the FA Cup and, also in the Community Shield this season, we missed a great chance,” Conte told reporters.
“This season, I think that if you can win against Southampton and to reach the final it will be more difficult against Tottenham or Manchester United. Last season, we were in the best condition to win the FA Cup and I think we missed that chance last season and it was our fault.
“I remember that some refereeing decisions weren’t good. The first goal that they scored with Alexis Sanchez was handball. Then we finished the game with 10 men. Despite this we managed to draw level but we conceded a goal at the last moment because of our mistake. Last season Arsenal did a great job to win the FA Cup.
“For sure, [Arsene Wenger] has a great capacity to prepare his team. His career speaks very clearly. You can win only once because you are lucky, but if you win many times then that means you are a winning man. When you are a winning man, you transfer your winning mentality to your team.
“Last season, I repeat, the final of the FA Cup, we could have done better. We had a great chance to win the FA Cup because in that moment we were stronger than them. This season it will be more difficult.
“You have to know that I play only to win. I don’t play to enjoy. I play only to win. I try to transfer this mentality to my player. Every season I start with only one idea in my mind. [Even] if you know that maybe it will be impossible to win something during the season. In my mind, heart and soul there is always this mentality and I try to transfer this mentality to my players. If I win something, I did my job, not something special.
“When I don’t win, I am very angry with myself but at the same time I am ready to work harder to try to win something in my next chance.”
Conte has seen his side win back-to-back league games for the first time in 2018 and it was sparked by an impressive comeback against Southampton last week.
Olivier Giroud’s two strikes, alongside Eden Hazard’s goal, helped his side come back from two goals down to win 3-2, but Conte warned his players need to carry the attitude they finished with into Sunday’s game.
“I think if the team that played the first half and part of the second half plays then we must be concerned. Really concerned,” Conte continued. “If we go to play with the right team spirit like against Burnley or in the last 30 minutes of Southampton’s game, I think we have the possibility to reach the final.
“My players have to know this, my players have to know that this is the way we have to follow. I think there is only one way. To go to the pitch with the fire in our eyes and to reach this final and have the crowd with us. We must give them the best satisfaction.
“It is a semi-final against a team that, for me, I am very surprised to see them in this position in the table. They are fighting to avoid relegation and despite this, I think they have good players, talented players. Don’t forget, only one week ago, we were losing 2-0 after 60 minutes.
“I think that the last game showed it will be very important to approach this right, for our future in this competition.”
Conte has paid tribute to Arsenal boss Wenger after the club announced that he will leave at the end of the season, having managed them for 22 years.
Wenger’s biggest achievement was arguably winning the Premier League in 2003–04 without losing a single game. Conte managed a similar feat in 2011-12 with Juventus and he reflected on Wenger’s best year in charge.
“With Juventus, we did the same in my first season. To win a title without losing is not simple,” he added. “I think it is an incredible achievement. I remember that season. When we talk about Arsene Wenger, we have to remember the whole story and for that reason we have to show great respect.
“We must pay him a great tribute because we are talking about a really important manager, one of the best managers in the world, along with Sir Alex Ferguson. Especially for this country. I remember everything. I think when you have that type of season and your confidence is very strong, you feel it is very difficult for teams to beat you.
“You become invincible in your mind. You start the game and you know in your heart and soul that it will be very difficult for your opponent to beat you.”