Conte focused on Blues, not City

Manager Antonio Conte says fit-again Eden Hazard's flexibility brings a new dimension to the Chelsea team.
Manager Antonio Conte says fit-again Eden Hazard's flexibility brings a new dimension to the Chelsea team.PHOTO: REUTERS

Chelsea boss' priority is to keep players fit and not be obsessed with chasing leaders

LONDON • Chelsea are on a five-match unbeaten run in the Premier League and manager Antonio Conte is hoping that his team's early-season woes are finally over.

Speaking ahead of the home clash with Swansea today, he also praised league leaders Manchester City, who are 11 points ahead of the Blues, but insisted that his side must remain focused on the title race.

"We are trying to do our best this season. We started the season with a lot of problems," Conte said at his pre-match conference yesterday.

"Manchester City are doing some extraordinary, it means they are having a great path.

"The most important thing is to look at ourselves and improve. We are becoming more solid and finding different solutions in the tactical solution.

"We have to try to do our best."

The Chelsea manager added that it is important that his players stay fit amid experiencing a tight schedule in the Premier League.

HE'S A REAL HAZARD

Now I think Eden is in really good form and I think he likes to play as a striker. There is a good link with Alvaro and for me also it's a great opportunity to play with two different systems.

ANTONIO CONTE, Chelsea manager, on Eden Hazard's fine form and his blossoming partnership with striker Alvaro Morata.

A GOOD RUN WILL END RUT

You know any time you put together back-to-back wins, or a win and a draw, you're pushing out of those danger zones. Our form has not been particularly good, but that's the belief we have.

PAUL CLEMENT, Swansea manager, confident of getting out of the drop zone.

"The most important thing for us is to have all players available, it is very important during a busy period," he added. "November, December and January will be very busy. We have just started this period and it will be important to rest players.

"In this way, we keep the concentration very high. If you play every game, the probability to have an injury is very high."

Part of the "early-season problems" that the 48-year-old mentioned was down to star forward Eden Hazard's ankle injury. Now fit again, Conte has challenged the Belgian to take a central role in his side's bid to close the gap on City.

Hazard was outstanding playing alongside striker Alvaro Morata at Anfield, as Liverpool found it impossible to subdue him during the 1-1 draw on Saturday.

The 26-year-old often dropped into midfield to control possession and Conte feels his flexibility brings new dimension to the team.

"The start of this season was full of trouble with Eden because he had an injury with the national team and we started the season without him," he said.

"Now I think Eden is in really good form and I think he likes to play as a striker.

"There is a good link with Alvaro and for me also it's a great opportunity to play with two different systems."

Swansea could be easy pickings for Chelsea as Paul Clement's side arrive at Stamford Bridge second from the bottom of the table after a five-match winless run.

He admits that confidence has been low at Swansea of late, but he insists his players still believe they can put together a winning run and climb out of the relegation zone.

"You know any time you put together back-to-back wins, or a win and a draw, you're pushing out of those danger zones," he said.

"Our form has not been particularly good, but that's the belief we have."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

CHELSEA V SWANSEA

Singtel TV Ch103 & StarHub Ch228, tomorrow, 3.30am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2017, with the headline 'Conte focused on Blues, not City'. Print Edition | Subscribe