Conte scoffs at sack talk

Chelsea's N'Golo Kante (centre) and John Terry warming up before the match against Watford on Aug 20. Conte must now decide whether to keep faith with David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta or recall Terry, who has recovered from injury.
Chelsea's N'Golo Kante (centre) and John Terry warming up before the match against Watford on Aug 20. Conte must now decide whether to keep faith with David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta or recall Terry, who has recovered from injury.PHOTO: REUTERS

Chelsea manager insists that his future at Stamford Bridge is secure despite poor losses

LONDON • Antonio Conte insists he has no reason to fear for his future at Chelsea, after bookmakers suspended betting on him being sacked.

The Italian has been in charge at Stamford Bridge only since July, but he had to answer questions about his job security yesterday following heavy betting on his imminent dismissal 24 hours earlier.

Though Chelsea have endured some difficult moments in the early stages of his reign, including consecutive lacklustre defeats by Liverpool and Arsenal, the club have made it clear they have no intention of wielding the axe.

And Conte was relaxed when quizzed ahead of today's Premier League clash with champions Leicester City at home.

"I take this with a smile. I'm trying to find who bet the money," the manager told reporters. "I have good communication and a good relationship with the club.

"It's very difficult to talk about this situation. I'm focused about my work. I'm focused to improve the team.

"We are working very hard to change the situation of the past, the whole of the last season. We are trying to bring something important for the present and the future."

Conte, though, can ill-afford to lose the next two matches.

Home games against Leicester and Manchester United will provide further evidence of how far Chelsea have come under him.

"These are two big challenges," the Italian admitted. "Leicester won the title last season and are playing a good Champions League.

"Manchester United are another great team, but in this moment we must think about ourselves and not the other team."

Conte's major problem is a shaky defence. He responded by switching to a formation with three central defenders and the result was a 2-0 win at Hull City.

The manager will stick with that formation against Leicester, but he has to decide whether to keep faith with David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta or recall captain John Terry.

"Yes, John is available, he came back for training in the middle of the week and did all the sessions," Conte said.

"Now I have four central defenders and one must go on the bench."

Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri is pinning hopes on his attacking trio of Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani to hurt Chelsea.

The Italian has been conducting special training sessions with the three players in order to develop a better understanding among them.

"There is a very good link between the three and I think this is the strength of our future," Ranieri said yesterday. " I believe in these three guys."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2016, with the headline 'Conte scoffs at sack talk'. Print Edition | Subscribe