Conte wants Chelsea to un­der­line ti­tle cre­den­tials

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

An­to­nio Conte has called on Chelsea to un­der­line their sta­tus as favourites for the Pre­mier League ti­tle with an dom­i­nant dis­play against West Bromwich Al­bion to­day.

Conte’s side are three points clear at the top af­ter a blis­ter­ing run of eight suc­ces­sive vic­to­ries in­clud­ing last week­end’s im­pres­sive tri­umph at ti­tle ri­vals Manch­ester City.

The Blues have scored 22 goals and con­ceded just two in their win­ning streak, but Chelsea boss Conte be­lieves he will have a clearer pic­ture of his team’s ti­tle chances at the end of the busy Christ­mas pro­gramme.

Point­ing out to his play­ers that Chelsea started the sea­son as also-rans in the ti­tle race ac­cord­ing to many pun­dits, Conte called on them to prove they can cope with the pres­sure of lead­ing from the front by see­ing off Al­bion at Stam­ford Bridge.

“It’s dif­fi­cult to ac­cept (be­ing favourites) be­cause we have played only 14 games,” Conte said. “We started as un­der­dogs this sea­son, but I sup­pose it’s nor­mal if you’re play­ing good foot­ball and win­ning a lot of games.

“It’s im­por­tant to con­tinue, that from this win we don’t lose our hunger.” On pa­per, Chelsea have a golden op­por­tu­nity to ce­ment pole po­si­tion head­ing into the new year as their fix­tures af­ter the West Brom clash are against Sun­der­land, Crys­tal Palace, Bournemouth and Stoke City. But Conte stressed the im­por­tance of fo­cus­ing only on the next op­po­nent and de­manded his play­ers show their com­mit­ment by play­ing with high in­ten­sity in train­ing. “It’s al­ways dif­fi­cult to say if these five games are a great op­por­tu­nity,” Conte said. “This league has taught me that ev­ery game is very tough. “If you don’t face ev­ery game with great con­cen­tra­tion and prepa­ra­tion you can find your­self in trou­ble.

“To­day is the type of game we can find dif­fi­cult if we don’t put the same con­cen­tra­tion, the same fo­cus, that we had in the pre­vi­ous games.

COM­PELLING

“The best re­ply from my play­ers is to be fo­cused ev­ery day dur­ing the train­ing ses­sion. “If you have a good train­ing ses­sion you show me that you are fo­cused for the game. “It’s im­por­tant to talk with the play­ers, but the re­ply in train­ing and on the pitch is im­por­tant.”

Conte in­sisted “Jan­uary is far away” as he fended off trans­fer win­dow questions amid spec­u­la­tion of an au­da­cious bid for Arse­nal for­ward Alexis Sanchez.

Chelsea mid­fielder Cesc Fabre­gas has been linked with a move, but the Spa­niard pro­duced a com­pelling per­for­mance against City and Conte has been de­lighted with his re­cent im­prove­ment af­ter a poor start to the sea­son.

Asked if Fabre­gas pro­vided an ex­am­ple for the whole squad with his com­po­sure in bid­ing his time then tak­ing his chance, Conte said: “For sure, I want this.

“If there is good com­pe­ti­tion, great com­pe­ti­tion, this is very im­por­tant. “If I haven’t a prob­lem for the de­ci­sion and it’s al­ways the same line-up, that’s not good. “It means that our level, our squad is im­prov­ing. It’s im­por­tant to con­tinue this chal­lenge.”

Al­bion shouldn’t be un­der­es­ti­mated by Conte’s men as Tony Pulis’s side will ar­rive in west Lon­don in con­fi­dent mood af­ter win­ning three of their last four matches. Pulis, known for his con­ser­va­tive game-plans, has sparked the Al­bion surge by play­ing a more ex­pan­sive style of late. But that at­tack­ing phi­los­o­phy will be tested by fix­tures against Chelsea, Manch­ester United and Arse­nal in the next few weeks.

“Let’s get through the tough Christ­mas pe­riod, with dif­fi­cult games com­ing up, start­ing with Chelsea on Sunday,” Pulis said.

“Then we’ve got Swansea, Man United and Arse­nal too. They’re re­ally tough games, great games to play, full houses over the fes­tive pe­riod.” — AFP

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