Antonio Conte confirmed he has accepted a Football Association charge of misconduct and will pay his £8,000 fine but insisted that the incident will not make him change his behaviour on the touchline.
The FA took action against Conte after he was dismissed from his technical area by referee Neil Swarbrick during the first half of Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Swansea City on Thursday, having subjected fourth official Lee Mason to a series of angry comments over what he perceived as time-wasting from the visitors.
Conte apologised for his actions after watching the second half on a “tactical camera” in the Chelsea dressing room, but in a news conference on Friday he stood by his assessment of Swansea’s delaying tactics and vowed to get his players to make the point directly to the referee in future.
“It’s right to accept it and pay the fine,” Conte said. “You know what happened, [and] if the referee took this decision I have to respect it and pay this fine.
“I want also the referee to learn something about this because Swansea was wasting time and the referee has to protect the team that wants to play football and try to win the game.
“I was angry because I said twice to the fourth official, ‘Look they are wasting time,’ but I shout and show dissent. I accept the decision of the referee.”
Asked if the punishment will change the way he acts during games, Conte replied: “For what? For this? No, no, I think I hope in the future that I tell my players to go out and tell these things to the referee.
“I will try to avoid to suggest this to the fourth official and I change because I will push my players to say these things to the referee.”
Given that the offence was deemed only worthy of a “standard charge” and he has no history of misconduct in England, there was no risk of Conte being given a touchline ban by the FA ahead of Chelsea’s match against Newcastle on Saturday.
The Blues are aiming to continue a six-match unbeaten run in the Premier League, but they will have to do so without David Luiz.
The defender is not training as he nurses a knee injury, and Conte said he still does not know when he will be available for selection again.
“He’s having treatment in his knee,” Conte said of Luiz. “It’s not simple to understand how much longer for this injury, but at the same time the doctor is doing the best to recover him very soon.”
The mystery surrounding Luiz’s injury so soon after he was dropped by Conte for Chelsea’s win over Manchester United last month has fuelled speculation that the 30-year-old faces an uncertain future at Stamford Bridge, and Real Madrid have been linked with a potential January move.
“I don’t have time to read [the rumours],” Conte said. “We are playing every three days and my focus is on the pitch to prepare in the right way my team.
“These are speculations in this period. We passed very quickly from my sacking to Real Madrid! We are very fast to pass to different situations. My focus is only on Chelsea and I’m totally committed to this club and for my players.”
The visit of Newcastle also brings Rafa Benitez back to Stamford Bridge for the first time since the end of his seven-month interim spell in the 2012-13 season.
Benitez had been unpopular with many Chelsea supporters for his Liverpool connections but guided the club to third place in the Premier League while winning the Europa League, and Conte says the Spaniard deserves credit for his achievements.
“Rafa in his spell at Chelsea did well,” he added. “To win the Europa League is not simple. I remember when Chelsea won the Europa League. It’s right always to give respect. Also, if for a long time your coach he was the coach of the opponent [Liverpool], I think our fans are great in these circumstances.”
Chelsea need to maintain momentum in the Premier League over the festive period if they are to have any hope of making up an 11-point deficit on runaway leaders Manchester City, but Conte insisted his team cannot afford to give up hope of defending their title.
“It’s right to believe and right to trust that we can catch them up,” he said. “It’s right to think this. It’s the right mentality because in every game we must have the right desire and will to fight and try to catch them up, but it is very difficult in this moment.
“They have good results at the end of the games many times. This shows great will from Man City to push to win the game. We have to look at ourselves, go game by game.
“It’s right to see always which team stays before you [Manchester United] and then to try to catch this team, and then to have another target. It’s right for our team to have this target.”