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Monday 16 July 2018

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England ENG 1

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Antonio Conte expected to regularly attend Chelsea training before taking charge

Italy head coach Antonio Conte will take over at Chelsea in the summer
Italy head coach Antonio Conte will take over at Chelsea in the summer

Antonio Conte is expected to be a regular presence at Chelsea's training ground before taking up his role as head coach in July.

The 46-year-old Conte was this week confirmed as Jose Mourinho's permanent successor and will take charge once Italy's European Championship campaign has concluded this summer.

Conte, who led Juventus to three successive Serie A titles, is expected to visit the Blues' training base to get to know his squad in the remaining weeks of the season so he can hit the ground running after Euro 2016.

Chelsea won the Premier League last season but are 10th entering this weekend's fixture at Swansea, their hopes of Champions League qualification over.

But interim boss Guus Hiddink maintains Conte's arrival as head coach can ensure the Blues keep their best talent - including striker Diego Costa - and attract key signings needed to restore Chelsea to the level of title contenders.

"The CV of a manager can also attract players," Hiddink said.

"He's showing he wants to come here, knowing Chelsea will not play Champions League next year.

"Coming in is showing that commitment, that might attract players."

Hiddink spoke to Conte on Tuesday when the Italian met the players at Cobham.

"I had a short meeting with him about general things," added Hiddink, who is happy to continue to help Chelsea on an informal basis once his second caretaker spell ends.

"It's always a big job, regardless (of) the circumstances Chelsea has been in this year.

"He is equipped and he is able and he's used to the pressure at big clubs to win titles.

"If needed I'm available for the club. This is a club which I love very much."

Hiddink refused to speculate what Conte's appointment means for the future of players linked with moves away from Stamford Bridge, such as Costa, Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois.

Costa, who completes a three-match ban this weekend, has been heavily linked with a return to Atletico Madrid, but Chelsea sources insist the striker is happy at Stamford Bridge and is not for sale.

Wholesale changes are unlikely this summer, but there could be a small number of significant squad changes.

Conte is likely to have a major say over whether John Terry will stay next season.

The 35-year-old is out of contract this summer and revealed in January he would be leaving the Blues, who maintain the offer of a new one-year deal could be forthcoming.

Should Terry move on, then Conte would have to fill the void defensively and in leadership without an established 'old guard'.

"That's an extra complication," Hiddink added.

"When I came here, going back in history, in 2009 there was also this transition, but at that time the team was firm regarding the personalities.

"There were players who knew the culture of English football, but especially the culture of the club, like (Frank) Lampard, John Terry, (Michael) Ballack, (Michael) Essien and (Didier) Drogba.

"Now it's a bit different, and it's not easy. But they're well aware and full of brightness and energy to get it restored."

It could be argued that Chelsea's season unravelled from the opening day during a 2-2 draw with Swansea at Stamford Bridge, the repercussions of which are ongoing.

Former first-team doctor Eva Carneiro continues to pursue a claim for constructive dismissal against the club and a separate personal legal action against Mourinho following events during the August 8 fixture.

The Blues are unbeaten in the Premier League since Mourinho's sacking, winning seven of 15 games.

With seven games to go, Hiddink's focus is on integrating young players, rather than seeking an unbeaten finish to the season.

They will get their chance again this week, with Terry (Achilles), Hazard (hip/groin), Costa (suspended), Loic Remy (calf) and Nemanja Matic (bruised leg) all out.

Terry is expected to be out for two to three weeks, while Remy may not play again this season, so Alexandre Pato could make his first start or Radamel Falcao could make his first appearance since October following a thigh problem.

Defender Gary Cahill (hip) faces a fitness test.

Press Association

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