And that, he revealed is all down to his midfield dynamo, N’Gogo Kante who, he claims, is one of the major reasons Chelsea are smiles, if not miles, better than most of their rivals this season.
While Jose Mourinho returns to Stamford Bridge with his now trademark scowl, the diminutive Frenchman will be smiling his way through the quarter final contest with the praise of his manager ringing in his ears.
“He’s a really good guy. He always has a smile on his face,” says Conte. “You try to talk with him and he’s always smiling. During training sessions he works a lot, but always with a smile.
To see this is great for the other players, the staff, for me, the people who work at Chelsea.”
N’Golo Kante has been impressive for Chelsea since moving from Leicester for £32m in the summer
Kante, an all action carbon copy of his boss a a player, has been putting on a happy face ever since joining Chelsea from Leicester City for £32million last summer.
Conte loves him for that, and the fact that he also rarely stops running for 90 minutes.
The Italian said: “He played very well with Leicester, now he’s playing very well with us. We are working on some aspects to try and improve him, to make him a more complete player. But we are talking about a great player already.”
Conte held back from nominating Kante for this season’s Player Of The Year accolade, saying: “I hope with all my heart that, at the end of the season, it will be a Chelsea player because that would probably mean we have won the league. And in this league there are a lot of great players.”
But then he was all smiles again discussing the selfless role that Kante has played at Stamford Bridge.
N’Golo is a fantastic guy, fantastic player, great commitment, great behaviour. A great example,” he cooed.
Unlike Claudio Ranieri at Leicester Conte has no intention of putting the brakes on Kante either.
“I was this type of player,” he said. “I have always appreciated this type of player, with great generosity, great ability to work for the team. I think it’s important to have this type of player if we want to win. Not only great talent, but players who run a lot during a game.
“I don’t want to stop him. I remember Trapatonni (his former manager) tried to stop me (running) during training, telling me to go into the changing room because I had to run during the game.
“I wasn’t happy about this. I wanted to stay with my team-mates. N’Golo is a great player and he always put 100% in the game, but also in training.”
Antonio Conte insists he will be wary of the threat Paul Pogba will pose for Man United
Conte also modestly held back from describing Kante as a mirror image of himself as a player, insisting: “He is stronger than me. I think I was stronger than him to score goals, but in other aspects there is no contest.”
In the meantime the Italian will also be keeping a wary eye on another midfield ace of his aquaintance tomorrow – Paul Pogba.
Conte signed the world’s most expensive player on a free transfer from United when he was manager of Juventus, and says: “We are talking about a top top player in all situations.
“We must pay great attention to him, above all when he arrives in the box,” Conte added.
“But above all we must think about the whole Manchester United team. They are very strong.”