I was not highlighting lack of signings: Conte

LONDON • Antonio Conte has denied that his team sheet was intended as any kind of message to the Chelsea hierarchy after a line-up stocked with kids on the bench and a 20-year-old making his first start lost 2-3 to Burnley on the opening day of their Premier League title defence.

"You don't know me very well," Conte said, replying to the suggestion he might have intended to highlight the club's lukewarm summer recruitment. "You can see that in every friendly game I always played the best formation and I did the same today (Saturday).

"My choice was to put out the best players that we have in this moment. I wanted to win today, not to send a message."

However, he did point the finger of blame at his players, accusing his team of losing composure after the sending off of captain Gary Cahill in the 13th minute

"It was a key moment because after that red card we conceded three goals, but we must pay attention because there is the whole rest of the game to do your best," the manager said.

"Despite this we also saw the great spirit and great commitment of my players and we must be very proud of this.

"I saw two faces today: one positive in the second half, one negative in the first half."

STRONGEST SELECTION

My choice was to put out the best players that we have in this moment. I wanted to win today, not to send a message.

ANTONIO CONTE , Chelsea manager, dismissing a suggestion that his team sheet against Burnley was a message to the club's hierarchy.

Asked about the referee Craig Pawson's performance in sending off Cahill and then Cesc Fabregas, Conte offered a long pause before saying: "I prefer not to comment on the referee's decisions or the performance of the referee. The coach can make mistakes the players can mistakes, the referee - yes."

There was at least one positive aspect for Chelsea in the performance of Alvaro Morata, who scored his first goal for the club, although Conte also warned that his record signing still has much work to do.

Sean Dyche was generous in victory, with the Burnley manager swatting aside the suggestion his players might have sensed some vulnerability in the champions at the start of the match.

"They're a top-class side, with some fantastic individuals, 3-0 down is not normal for them so they had to respond, which they did," said Dyche.

"It's a big win for us."

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2017, with the headline 'I was not highlighting lack of signings: Conte'. Print Edition | Subscribe