Monday 19 March 2018

Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte 'not afraid to face the difficulties'

Antonio Conte has dismissed suggestions of discontent over his training methods
Antonio Conte has dismissed suggestions of discontent over his training methods

Antonio Conte insists he is "not afraid to face the difficulties" at Chelsea.

Chelsea, champions in Conte's first season as head coach, are nine points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City after eight games.

Three matches without a win - league losses to City and Crystal Palace, plus Wednesday's Champions League draw with Roma - have increased scrutiny on the Italian.

Conte, whose side performed above his own expectations in his first campaign, had predicted a challenging second season, and on Friday suggested he was something of a clairvoyant.

"I was a magician to anticipate it," said Conte, who was forced to dismiss rumoured unhappiness at his training methods ahead of Saturday's clash with Watford.

"But, for sure, I'm a person who is not afraid to face the difficulties."

The head coach insists Chelsea's training loads are "70 per cent less" than during last season's title-winning campaign, when the Blues were not in European action.

Conte says the proximity of matches renders the work which brought success last term "impossible".

"I don't know about this," the 48-year-old said, when asked about media speculation of disgruntlement.

"I have my methods. It's the same, like last season, when we won the league.

"Honestly I think we are working maybe 70 per cent less this season. Maybe for this reason we are having trouble.

"When you play every three days it's impossible to work on the tactical aspect and physical aspect.

"I think we are paying less attention in every detail."

Conte did not directly respond to questions on Chelsea's chances of retaining the title, saying the Blues must "look at ourselves".

"Now we are in October and we have to think about improving the present," he said.

"Don't find excuses. Tell always the truth. If you always tell the truth, you can't be afraid of anything."

The last time Chelsea lost three straight league games was autumn 2015 as Jose Mourinho's second spell as boss was unravelling before his departure that December.

Conte is aware of the precarious nature of management, not least at Chelsea, but says any discussions with the Blues hierarchy and owner Roman Abramovich must remain private.

He added: "If I feel the pressure? I think every coach, every manager has to feel the pressure.

"When I go to my house I'm happy because I know in every moment I put all myself in my job for this club, for the fans, for my players.

"If this is enough, it's OK. If it's not enough..."

Conte then shrugged.

He has pointed to problems with injuries and has "many doubts" for the Watford contest, the latest being David Luiz (calf) and Tiemoue Bakayoko (groin).

Conte on Wednesday responded to Mourinho's thinly veiled barb about rival bosses "crying" about injuries, telling the Manchester United boss to concentrate on his own side.

Asked about Mourinho on Friday, Conte, while making a prodding gesture, said: "You are here today to try to (prod)...

"For me this is a stupid subject. It's fun to see your (the media's) interest in this."

Press Association

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