‘Newborn’ Inter Face Tough Champions League Test, Says Conte

 

Antonio Conte said on Tuesday that Inter Milan faced a tough task in Wednesday’s Champions League clash at Slavia Prague if they are to get the win they need to keep their hopes alive.

When the two teams met at the San Siro in the opening round of group games Inter needed a goal two minutes into stoppage time to salvage a 1-1 draw.

“We are a better team than when we played the first game against Slavia,” Conte said. “The team has been growing continually, we are far more compact and better prepared.”

“We will play our game, but we know it will be a tough match and we will definitely suffer just as Barcelona and Borussia did here.”

Inter need a win to retain hopes of qualifying for the knock-out stages. They have just four points from four games and sit third in the group, three behind Dortmund and four adrift of leaders Barcelona.

“We are playing for a big chance,” said Conte. “I know the odds are not fantastic really, but we’ll try to win.”

“I hope we can keep going in Europe because we need this type of game to keep improving.”

“We have started a path,” Conte said. “We are at the dawn. The team is ‘newborn’ but at the same time it is essential to continue in this competition to gain experience.”

Conte already has Inter in contention in Italy. They won 3-0 at Torino on Saturday to stay a point behind Serie A leaders Juventus.

But they lost midfielder Nicolo Barella, their scorer in the first meeting, who limped off and is due to undergo a surgery on his right knee.

Alexis Sanchez will miss Wednesday’s clash with an ankle injury while Matteo Politano is out with a twisted ankle.

Conte said Inter would also be without Stefano Sensi, Kwadwo Asamoah and Roberto Gagliardini but added it “makes to weep before the game over the absence of this or that player.”

– ‘Well prepared’ –

Last-place Slavia have two points from draws at Inter and Barcelona, but they have given all their rivals a hard time.

“They are physical, they run a lot, we could see that in the first game which was really hard,” said Inter defender Stefan de Vrij.

“But I think we have improved a lot and we are very well prepared for tomorrow’s game,” added the Dutch centre back.

Slavia need a win to stay in contention for at least a Europa League spot.

“If we want to play in the spring, we know we have to win tomorrow,” said Trpisovsky.

“That’s the only thing that matters to me, we haven’t got a single point from our home games and we simply want to win.”

“I believe we will convert the chances we will create, that’s what matters the most,” added the coach whose players have only scored twice in their four Champions League games so far.

Slavia were held to a goalless draw at Olomouc in the Czech top flight on Saturday but they retained their 11-point lead over Viktoria Pilsen.

Against Inter, they will be without centre back David Hovorka, sidelined with a torn knee ligament. Midfielder Lukas Masopust is uncertain with a minor injury.

In the last round of games in December, Inter face Barcelona at the San Siro while Slavia travel to Dortmund.

AFP

Inter Coach Conte Under Police Protection After Bullet Threat

Inter Milan's Italian head coach Antonio Conte reacts prior to the Italian Serie A football match Inter Milan vs Hellas Verona on November 9, 2019 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. Miguel MEDINA / AFP
Inter Milan’s Italian head coach Antonio Conte reacts prior to the Italian Serie A football match Inter Milan vs Hellas Verona on November 9, 2019 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. Miguel MEDINA / AFP

 

Inter Milan coach Antonio Conte is receiving police protection after a threatening letter containing a bullet was sent to him through the post, Italian media reported on Saturday.

According to Corriere della Sera, the former Italy and Chelsea manager received the anonymous threatening letter containing a bullet in recent days.

Serie A club Inter Milan later said in a statement to Italian news agency Ansa that “the letter arrived at the club and not personally to the coach”.

“In relation to the news published today, Inter Milan states that Antonio Conte did not personally receive any threatening letters and, consequently, he did not go in person to file a complaint,” the club statement said.

“It was the club that received a letter and, as is the practice in this kind of situation, it contacted the competent authorities.”

An investigation has now been launched while Conte is receiving police surveillance outside his home and at Inter’s training ground, Gazzetta Dello Sport reported.

Meanwhile, Conte’s wife Elisabetta Muscarello wrote on social media: “For the record: the story of the bullet is a hoax!”

Conte joined Inter in the summer and the Italian outfit are currently one point behind his former club Juventus at the top of Serie A.

The 50-year-old led Juventus to three consecutive Serie A titles from 2012 to 2014 before taking over as Italy national coach.

He also spent two seasons at Chelsea, winning both the Premier League and the FA Cup during his time at Stamford Bridge.

Conte took over from Luciano Spalletti, who led Inter to a fourth-place finish last season.

 

AFP

Conte’s Inter Shocked By ‘Ruthless’ Slavia Prague

Inter Milan’s Italian head coach Antonio Conte gives instructions during the UEFA Champions League Group F football match Inter Milan vs Slavia Prague on September 17, 2019 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. Marco Bertorello / AFP

 

Inter Milan coach Antonio Conte insisted he was to blame for misjudging opponents Slavia Prague after the Chinese-owned club rescued a disappointing 1-1 draw in their Champions League opener against the Czech outsiders on Tuesday.

Substitute Nicolo Barella scored eight minutes into stoppage time in the San Siro after Nigerian forward Peter Olayinka put the Czech club ahead in the 63rd minute.

“Slavia Prague attacked us with intensity and showed a ruthless streak,” said Conte.

“We didn’t do well in terms of finding the right solutions and struggled too much.”

It was a draw that had the taste of defeat as the Italian team left the pitch heads bowed.

“A point or zero, today is the same thing, my feeling must be the feeling of the players,” said Conte.

“There must be no player who goes home happy. You have to go home pissed off, thinking about what to do to avoid this kind of performance.”

Slavia Prague are top of Group F ahead of Inter followed by heavyweights Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund who settled for a goalless drew in Germany.

“This isn’t the kind of football we want to play and why we train,” continued Conte.

“I’m the one who’s primarily responsible, for selections made and obviously I didn’t make the lads understand what I wanted from them well enough.”

Olayinka, who has previously played in Albania and Belgium, pounced after Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic had saved from Jaroslav Zeleny.

However, Inter equalised when a Stefano Sensi free-kick rattled off the bar and the ball came out to Barella, whose shot found the net with the aid of a deflection.

Slavia goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar then made a fine reaction save from a Romelu Lukaku header in the 97th minute, and a draw was the least the visitors deserved.

Slavia are among the longest shots with bookmakers to win the Champions League in their first appearance in the group stage since 2007-08.

Inter came into their Champions League campaign with optimism after winning their opening three games of the season in Serie A under new coach Conte and but are already at risk of exiting in the group stage for the second season running.

“I’m not going to talk about individuals because the whole team was under par today,” said Conte.

“They (Slavia) played in a European manner, believing and executing the game at high intensity.

“They tried to bring a high pace, a huge pressing, while we were not good at finding solutions.

“In other matches we found teams that waited for us in their half, while they attacked us and we had to find different solutions.”

AFP

Inter Edge ‘Neymar-Less’ PSG On Penalties

Inter Milan’s players celebrate winning the match against Paris St. Germain in a penalty shootout after their International Super Cup football match in Macau on July 27, 2019.
VIVEK PRAKASH / AFP

 

Portuguese midfielder Joao Mario scored the final spot-kick as Inter Milan beat Neymar-less Paris Saint-Germain on penalties in Macau on Saturday.

With their want-away Brazilian superstar left out of the trip to the former Portuguese colony, PSG were seconds from victory before Samuele Longo’s injury-time equaliser made it 1-1.

Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic saved from Adil Aouchiche and then Arthur Zagre before Mario stepped up to slot the winner for Inter, who edged the penalties 6-5.

The win for Antonio Conte’s side comes just days after they lost to Italian rivals Juventus on penalties in a friendly in China.

READ ALSO: Barcelona Beat Ex-Star Iniesta’s Kobe In Pre-Season Friendly

Neymar, linked with a move back to his former club Barcelona, remained in China’s Shenzhen, PSG’s previous stop on their Asian tour, while his team-mates flew to gambling enclave Macau.

In a scrappy game in sweltering Macau, Inter were quicker out of the blocks forcing three fine stops from PSG’s Alphonse Areola in the first 10 minutes.

New signing Stefano Sensi and Ivan Perisic were instrumental in the early Inter attack, producing quick probing passes and causing problems behind the PSG defence.

In Neymar’s absence, it was French World Cup-winner Kylian Mbappe who drew cheers from the 8,800-strong crowd with his driving runs, although he was often let down by his final touch.

Just before half-time, Mbappe was brought down by Milan Skriniar and new signing Pablo Sarabia floated a free-kick which a climbing Thilo Kehrer glanced into the net.

Inter leapt into the attack in the second half, with Perisic jinking his way into the box to force another fine save from Areola, before sending the rebound soaring over the bar.

Inter continued to squander chances, with the heat adding to their frustration, with Perisic seeing another chance creep over on 78 minutes.

But in the last minute of injury time substitute Longo picked up a bobbling pass trickling through the PSG box to drive the ball into the bottom corner, past the otherwise rock-solid Areola, who thumped the ground in frustration.

Penalties went to sudden death after PSG’s Adil Aouchiche’s effort was stopped by Handanovic, but Antonio Candreva’s cheeky attempt to chip Areola backfired and glanced off the crossbar.

It was up to Handanovic to make another fine stop from Arthur before Mario calmly buried the crucial kick.

AFP

Conte To Sue Chelsea Over ‘Delayed’ Sack 

Antonio Conte, Chelsea, Middlesbrough Could Have Got A Draw, Conte Admits
Antonio Conte

Antonio Conte is set to take legal action against Chelsea over damage to his career and loss of future earnings following his sacking by the Premier League club, according to reports on Friday.

Conte is believed to be furious Chelsea made him return to the pre-season training before finally dismissing him last week to make way for the arrival of new boss Maurizio Sarri.

The Italian, who spent just two years with the Blues, was widely reported to be facing the sack for much of last season after the breakdown in his relationship with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and the club’s hierarchy.

But Conte was made to wait 55 days after Chelsea’s FA Cup final win over Manchester United before he was axed.

After winning the Premier League in his first season at Stamford Bridge, Conte presided over a dismal collapse last term, with Chelsea finishing fifth and missing out on a place in the Champions League.

Conte is believed to have received a £9 million pay-off for the year he had remaining on his Chelsea contract, yet the Times reports the former Juventus coach is keen to get additional compensation.

That could trigger an ugly legal battle, with Conte’s lawyers reportedly set to claim the west London club cost their client a year of his career, as all the top management jobs in Europe have been filled.

Real Madrid were believed to be interested in Conte after Zinedine Zidane left in May, while the Italy job was also available earlier this year.

The Times also reported Chelsea have threatened to withhold Conte’s contract settlement due to repeated criticism of his employers over their failure to back his transfer demands.

AFP

Chelsea Sack Conte, Appoint Sarri

File: Conte and Sarri

 

Maurizio Sarri has succeeded Antonio Conte as Chelsea manager on a three-year deal, the club announced on Saturday.

The 59-year-old former Napoli head coach becomes Roman Abramovich’s ninth full-time manager in his 15 years as owner less than 24 hours after Conte parted company with the club he led to a league and FA Cup title.

Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia said: “We are delighted to welcome Maurizio and are looking forward to him bringing his football philosophy to Chelsea.”

Sarri, a chain-smoking former banker, said he would be starting his new job “and meeting the players” on Monday ahead of Chelsea’ pre-season Australia tour.

“I hope we can provide some entertaining football for our fans, and that we will be competing for trophies at the end of the season, which is what this club deserves,” he said.

Winning trophies didn’t save Conte being shown the Stamford Bridge exit door as he was dismissed after guiding Chelsea to the FA Cup in May.

His days were numbered after he fell out with the board and senior players.

Chelsea believe they have got in Sarri an astute tactician who produces sides playing exciting football with his three years at Napoli harvesting two second-placed finishes in Serie A.

“Maurizio’s Napoli side played some of the most exciting football in Europe, impressing with their attacking approach and dynamism, and his coaching methods significantly improved the players at his disposal,” noted Granovskaia.

“He has plenty of experience in Serie A and the Champions League and we know he is relishing the chance to work in the Premier League.”

She added: “He has plenty of experience in Serie A and the Champions League and we know he is relishing the chance to work in the Premier League.”

Chelsea finally put an end to Conte’s two year reign on Friday.

The former Italy national coach returned to take training this week but the writing was on the wall and the drawn out process was reportedly due to how much compensation the club should pay Napoli for Sarri.

Conte began his tenure with a bang, lifting the Premier League title in his first season, but an FA Cup win wasn’t enough to save him even though he has the best win percentage 65.1% of any of Chelsea’s managers in the Premier League era.

Chelsea Finally Put An End To Conte’s Tenure As Manager

In this file photo taken on April 14, 2018 Chelsea’s Italian head coach Antonio Conte waits for kick off of the English Premier League football match between Southampton and Chelsea at St Mary’s Stadium in Southampton, southern England on April 14, 2018. PHOTO: Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Antonio Conte’s two-year tenure as Chelsea manager which began with a bang last year after winning the Premier League title ended sourly on Friday with the club announcing they had parted company with him.

The 48-year-old Italian had been seen as vulnerable despite winning the FA Cup last term having fallen out with both the board and senior players.

The former Italy national coach returned to take training this week but the writing was on the wall and the drawn out process was reportedly due to how much compensation the club should pay Napoli for his likely successor Maurizio Sarri.

“Chelsea Football Club and Antonio Conte have parted company,” the club said in a terse statement.

“During Antonio’s time at the club, we won our sixth league title and eighth FA Cup.

“In the title-winning season, the club set a then-record 30 wins in a 38-game Premier League season, as well as a club-record 13 consecutive league victories.

“We wish Antonio every success in his future career.”

Conte leaves with the best win percentage 65.1% of any of Chelsea’s managers in the Premier League era.

Former banker Sarri, 59, will be Chelsea’s eighth manager inside a decade as Russian owner Roman Abramovich has never shown a sentimental side to his nature regarding them, no matter the trophies they won the preceding season as Roberto di Matteo found just months after delivering Abramovich’s holy grail the Champions League.

Conte — who had a year to run on his contract — is seen to have contributed to his own demise by falling out both with the players and the board as the sheen of the title victory quickly disappeared.

His intense training methods angered senior players and he alienated the board with disparaging treatment of Spanish striker Diego Costa and constant carping over the club’s failure to replace top players with those of similar ability.

‘Thank you Boss’

However, while present players may have had issues with Conte, former Chelsea legend John Terry, who left after the league title-winning campaign had nothing but praise for him.

“Thank You Boss,” Terry posted on Instagram alongside a photo of the two of them holding the Premier League trophy.  “Great man, Great manager. I wish you every success in the future.”

Sarri has been favourite to succeed his compatriot after impressing as manager of Serie A side Napoli, who have replaced him with former Chelsea handler Carlo Ancelotti.

Sarri, who split his time between banking and playing football before he took up coaching aged 40, has not won a major honour in three years at Napoli but has guided the club to finishes of second, third and second again.

The chain-smoking former Empoli manager — who will have to restrain himself on the touchline in England where smoking is banned — was named Serie A Coach of the Year in 2016-17.

The main reason for the prolonged saga has been compensation.

Conte is due to a reported £9million ($11.9million) if he remains out of work for the season and with the major jobs such as Real Madrid and the Italy national post — which he occupied for two years till after Euro 2016 — filled it is likely he will sit the year out.

Napoli are also expecting compensation of around £4.5million for Sarri, who is under contract even though he is no longer their coach.

Sarri is believed to have agreed to bring former Chelsea favourite Gianfranco Zola — whose managerial career has stalled after a series of failures — along as one of his backroom staff.

Sarri has also presented a list of players he would like to sign.

They reportedly include Brazil-born Italy international midfielder Jorginho from Napoli, CSKA Moscow’s Russian playmaker Aleksandr Golovin and Italian defender Daniele Rugani from Juventus, the side that edged Napoli in the Serie A title race.

AFP

Conte Set To Bid Chelsea Farewell After Two Years

Conte Bids Chelsea Farewell After Two Years
Chelsea’s Italian head coach Antonio Conte gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Chelsea at The London Stadium, in east London on December 9, 2017. Ian KINGTON / AFP

 

The long-running saga over Antonio Conte’s future appears to have been resolved with Chelsea sacking him as manager and appointing Maurizio Sarri, according to media reports on Thursday.

The BBC said the 48-year-old Italian’s two-year reign — which brought league success in 2017 and the FA Cup last season — was ending although they added Chelsea would not comment.

However, Conte’s apparent dismissal drew a response from Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas, who liked a tweet a Chelsea fan posted about Conte having been sacked although the Spanish 2010 World Cup winner subsequently claimed he had liked it by accident.

Conte leaves with the best win percentage 65.1% of any of Chelsea’s managers in the Premier League era.

Former banker Sarri, 59, will be Chelsea’s ninth full-time manager since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003.

Conte — who had a year to run on his contract — is seen to have contributed to his own demise by falling out both with the players and the board as the sheen of the title victory quickly disappeared.

His intense training methods angered senior players and he alienated the board with a disparaging treatment of Spanish striker Diego Costa and constant carping over the club’s failure to replace top players with those of similar ability.

However, while present players may have had issues with Conte, former Chelsea legend John Terry, who left after the league title-winning campaign had nothing but praise for him.

“Thank You Boss,” Terry posted on Instagram alongside a photo of the two of them holding the Premier League trophy.  “Great man, Great manager. I wish you every success in the future.”

Sarri has been favourite to succeed his compatriot after impressing as manager of Serie A side Napoli, who have replaced him with former Chelsea handler Carlo Ancelotti.

Sarri, who split his time between banking and playing football before he took up coaching aged 40, has not won a major honour in three years at Napoli but has guided the club to finishes of second, third and second again.

The chain-smoking former Empoli manager — who will have to restrain himself on the touchline in England where smoking is banned — was named Serie A Coach of the Year in 2016-17.

The main reason for the prolonged saga has been compensation.

Conte is due a reported £9million ($11.9million) if he remains out of work for the season and with the major jobs such as Real Madrid and the Italy national post — which he occupied for two years till after Euro 2016 — filled it is likely he will sit the year out.

Napoli are also expecting compensation of around £4.5million for Sarri, who is under contract even though he is no longer their coach.

Sarri is believed to have agreed to bring former Chelsea favourite Gianfranco Zola — whose managerial career has stalled after a series of failures — along as one of his backroom staff.

Sarri has also presented a list of players he would like to sign.

They reportedly include Brazil-born Italy international midfielder Jorginho from Napoli, CSKA Moscow’s Russian playmaker Aleksandr Golovin and Italian defender Daniele Rugani from Juventus, the side that edged Napoli in the Serie A title race.

AFP

Chelsea To Sack Conte, Appoint Sarri As Manager – Report

Chelsea To Sack Conte, Appoint Sarri As Manager - Report
Chelsea’s Italian head coach Antonio Conte. photo; GLYN KIRK / AFP

 

Antonio Conte is to be sacked as Chelsea manager within days and former Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri installed as his replacement, according to British media reports on Thursday.

Conte is presently on holiday but is to be told he is no longer needed despite winning the FA Cup last season — to add to the league title he won in his first season in charge — and issuing a defiant message afterwards of how he wouldn’t change his style of management.

Sarri, a former banker, has been linked with the post even before the 59-year-old stepped down from the Napoli hot seat after guiding them to runners-up spot behind Juventus for the second time in three campaigns.

Both men will cost Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.

Conte will be due £9million ($11.8million) if he doesn’t take another job in the next year and Napoli will be due a payment for Sarri as he is still under contract with them, even though Carlo Ancelotti — who knows how swiftly Abramovich forgets past glories as he was sacked a season after guiding them to the domestic double — has replaced him.

Despite no official confirmation from the club The London Evening Standard and The Sun report Sarri is already building up his backroom staff.

Giovanni Martusciello — who he worked with at Empoli — will be lured away from Inter Milan whilst former Chelsea favourite Gianfranco Zola, whose managerial career has not been a success, will also be part of the coaching staff.

Martusciello has been overseeing long-term strategy and developing young talent at Inter Milan.

Napoli’s Senegalese international centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly certainly believes Sarri is headed to Chelsea as he told English radio station talkSPORT after his country’s opening 2-1 victory over Poland in the World Cup.

“They (Chelsea) can expect nice football because he is a very good coach,” said Koulibaly.

“I’m disappointed that he leaves like this but we have now a big coach (Carlo Ancelotti). We know we can win something with him.

“I hope he will win something with Chelsea because he’s a nice coach.”

The polish on Conte’s tenure at Chelsea has become tarnished both at boardroom level and amongst his players.

He has been damaged by a fifth-place finish — which saw them fall short of qualifying for the Champions League — just a year after winning the league and his constant refrain of the best players being sold and not replaced like for like did not go down well.

There have also been reports that several senior players are unhappy with his demanding training regime.

Two of their best players Belgian duo playmaker Eden Hazard and goalkeeper Thibault Courtois have also urged that Conte’s future be sorted and players brought in before their rivals steal a march on them in the transfer market as they did last year.

Muddying the waters further is that both Hazard and Courtois have just two years and one year remaining on their contracts respectively and are being strongly linked with moves to Spain.

Sarri has already told the Chelsea board in their talks that top of his list to buy are Inter Milan’s Uruguayan midfielder Matias Vecino and Spanish winger Jose Callejon from Napoli.

AFP

Manchester United Will Be Cup Final Favourites, Says Conte

FILE COPY Chelsea’s Italian head coach Antonio Conte gestures during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England. Photo Credit: Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Antonio Conte says Chelsea will be underdogs when they face Manchester United and his old rival Jose Mourinho in the FA Cup final.

Conte’s side cruised to a 2-0 win over Southampton in Sunday’s semi-final to set up a heavyweight clash with United at Wembley on May 19.

But Conte doesn’t believe Chelsea, beaten by Arsenal 2-1 in last year’s final despite going into the match as Premier League champions, will be regarded as favourites to lift the famous old trophy.

“This final is a game between two great teams. In my mind I can tell you we played the final as favourites against Arsenal,” he said.

“I think in this season we arrive not as favourites. But then last season we lost the final even though we were expected to win.”

Given their long-running feud, there will be as much attention on the two managers on Cup final day as there will be on the players.

Blues boss Conte and United manager Mourinho have exchanged a series of bitter barbs via the media this season.

Conte labelled Mourinho a “little man” with senile dementia after the United chief infuriated him by saying he thought his rival acted like a “clown” with his passionate touchline antics, while also referring to an Italian match-fixing scandal that Conte was cleared of any involvement in.

Even this week, Conte took a swipe at Mourinho, insisting the Portuguese coach had it much easier than him in his two spells as Chelsea manager.

Speaking after the win over Southampton, Conte made the rather unconvincing claim that he had cleared the air with Mourinho.

“I think with Jose, we have clarified the situation. This is the most important thing. There is not a problem between him and I,” he said.

“We are talking about two managers with strong characters, two winners. In your heart and your blood there is the will to win.

“For sure, we want to try to win the trophy, in the same way United do. I have great respect for United and Mourinho’s story.”

The final offers Conte a chance to end a troubled season with silverware in what might be his last match at Chelsea.

Chelsea never came close to successfully defending the Premier League title and their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League via a top-four finish are hanging by a slender thread.

Numerous reports have claimed Conte will leave in the close season after falling out with Chelsea’s hierarchy over their failure to back his transfer plans.

Asked how he would rate Chelsea’s inconsistent season, Conte said: “I don’t understand what it means to have a successful season. It’s another thing if I’m happy or unhappy.

“In this season we are working very hard. As you know well, it’s not simple to play in this league.

“It is the only league to fight with six teams to win the title and a place in the Champions League. It will be more difficult year by year.”

AFP

Manchester City Could Dominate For Years, Says Conte

Chelsea's Conte Seeks Respite In Yoga
Conte                                                                                                                  Photo: Ian KINGTON / AFP

 

Antonio Conte says Manchester City could dominate English football for years after Pep Guardiola’s side dethroned Chelsea as Premier League champions.

City were crowned champions last weekend with five games of the season still to go and boast a 16-point lead over second-placed Manchester United.

“Manchester City is one club that can continue to dominate, to win, not only in England but also to fight for the Champions League,” said Conte, who won the Premier League in his first season at Stamford Bridge.

“They have the possibility to do this. It is a very strong club, they have an important squad with great players and are a club that want to invest and improve. There are a lot of things that are right.”

Chelsea go into Thursday’s clash with Burnley with their top-four hopes hanging by a thread.

The Blues trail fourth-placed Tottenham by eight points, even if Spurs have played a game more.

Conte said Chelsea would strive to reach the Champions League qualification spots even though the odds are stacked against them.

“If we want to be realistic with five games to go, it’s not simple to reduce the gap, but we must have the will to fight, the desire to take this target,” he said.

“Why not? We have an important game against Burnley, a really strong team having a fantastic season, and it won’t be easy to get three points.”

AFP

Conte Refuses To Discuss Potential Chelsea Exit

Conte Refuses To Discuss Potential Chelsea Exit
Chelsea’s Italian head coach Antonio Conte. photo; GLYN KIRK / AFP

 

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte refused to discuss his potential departure at the end of the season amid mounting speculation that the Premier League club are ready to replace him.

Conte has been coy when questioned about his future throughout a troubled season and the Italian once again took a dismissive approach to the subject following reports Napoli’s Maurizio Sari is Chelsea’s top choice to take charge.

Fifth-placed Chelsea are 10 points adrift of the Premier League’s top four with only six games remaining and failure to qualify for the Champions League certain to end Conte’s two-year reign.

Conte, who has been linked with a return to his former role as Italy coach, dropped strong hints that he was unhappy with Chelsea’s transfer policy as they struggled to defend the Premier League title — leading many to believe a parting would be acceptable to both the manager and his club.

But publicly at least, Conte, whose side face Southampton on Saturday, insists no decision has been taken.

“This is not my job to answer this type of question. My job is to work with these players and try and finish this season as strongly as possible,” he said.

“There is always speculation around our position. This is not only for me but for a lot of coaches. This is our job.

“For us, for me, the most important thing now is to be focused on Chelsea and to try to improve, to improve this season and finish in the best possible way.

“Honestly, I’m not curious. Also because I don’t read the papers.

“My only worry is to do my job and my work with my players in the best way possible.”

Conte isn’t the only high-profile name who could leave Chelsea this summer.

Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who spent three seasons on loan with Atletico Madrid between 2011 and 2014, has been linked with a close-season return to Spain.

“My answer is always the same (about Courtois’ contract),” Conte said. “We are talking about a really good goalkeeper. But, as you know very well, this is a problem to solve between the club and Thibaut.”

Conte was also asked about the future of former Leicester midfielder Danny Drinkwater.

“Drinkwater’s having an unlucky season. He has started this season with a problem in his calf. Now he’s struggling with another problem. It’s not the time to talk about one player,” he said.

AFP