Tuesday 26 March 2019

Antonio Conte unsure how vital Champions League qualification is to his Chelsea future

Chelsea are behind in the battle for the top four.

Antonio Conte
Antonio Conte

By Ed Elliot, Press Association Sport

Antonio Conte admits he does not know whether his Chelsea future hinges on qualifying for the Champions League.

Conte’s fifth-placed Blues face a crunch match in the battle for a top-four finish when they host London rivals Tottenham on Sunday.

The Italian won the Premier League in his first season in English football but has come under pressure this year having failed to mount a title defence.

He has repeatedly stated his desire to honour the three-year contract he signed in the summer of 2016 and, ahead of fourth-placed Spurs’ visit to Stamford Bridge, says he is unsure if Champions League football is vital to him being given the opportunity to do so.

“I don’t know, I must be honest, I don’t know,” Conte said.

“This is not my problem. It’s a problem for the club. It’s not my problem.

“For us (managers) it is not sure.

“You can have a contract but you don’t know what will happen after one or two games.

“We depend a lot on the result.”

Chelsea are currently five points adrift of Tottenham with eight games remaining.

They have lost two of their last three league matches and exited this season’s Champions League before the international break following a two-legged defeat to Barcelona.

This weekend’s game is likely to have a major bearing on their top-four aspirations and the demonstrative Conte has called for his players to replicate his touchline passion on the pitch.

“I think it is very important for the players to show the passion and enthusiasm during the game,” he added.

“I think the passion is the first important thing in football for the coach and for the player.

“If you don’t have passion it is very difficult to reach something important in football as players or as a manager.

“I think also when I was a player I showed in every moment my passion inside and outside the pitch. I wasn’t a calm player.”

Chelsea have injury concerns going into the game with goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and centre-back Andreas Christensen both doubts.

Courtois is battling to be fit following a hamstring injury, while Christensen was sent back from international duty with Denmark suffering with fatigue.

David Luiz, who faces at least three more weeks on the sidelines with a knee problem, is out, along with Ross Barkley who has been with club’s Under-23 team as he attempts to regain full fitness.

Although Tottenham have not won at Stamford Bridge for 28 years, Conte expects a tough test.

“As we know very well, it is a derby, it is an important game for us and especially as we need to take three points,” he added.

“It won’t be easy because we have to play against a very good team, now they are ahead of us.

“I can have a great admiration for Tottenham because everyone can see the good work they are doing.”

Press Association

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