Future not priority: Conte

Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud fending off Liverpool forward Sadio Mane, with Eden Hazard looking on, during Sunday's Premier League match that the Blues won 1-0. The Frenchman is the in-form player for Chelsea with five goals in five games.
Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud fending off Liverpool forward Sadio Mane, with Eden Hazard looking on, during Sunday's Premier League match that the Blues won 1-0. The Frenchman is the in-form player for Chelsea with five goals in five games.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Chelsea boss focused on top-4 fight, Spurs' Pochettino confident of finishing third

LONDON • Chelsea manager Antonio Conte again shrugged off mounting speculation that today's Premier League clash with relegation-threatened Huddersfield could be his last game at Stamford Bridge.

The Blues have a fully fit squad to pick from and go into their final two games of the season convinced they can still secure a top-four finish despite a turbulent campaign.

However, they are still outsiders, with rivals Tottenham and Liverpool in the box seat. They need either club to drop points even if they win both games, while they also have an vastly inferior goal difference to Spurs and the Reds.

When asked about his Blues' future, Conte remained his usual evasive self yesterday: "I'm very focused on the present and my answer is always the same.

"As you know, our job is not simple, not easy. But I am totally focused on the present, and that is now to finish the season in the best possible way with my players, because our fans deserve this."

There have also been rumours that Alvaro Morata could follow the Italian out of the exit door, with British media reports yesterday saying that Juventus are keen to sign the Spain striker, who has struggled to make an impression despite 13 goals in all competitions.

The Guardian reported that the Italian champions were keen on bringing their former forward back, either on a two-year loan or for a £60 million (S$108 million) fee, but Conte refused to be drawn on the talk of a move for Morata.

"No, I don't like to comment on speculation. It is not right now for everyone," he said.

Unlike Morata, Olivier Giroud has had little trouble winning over the fans since his January move from London rivals Arsenal.

  • FIGHT FOR TOP 4: FORM GUIDE

  • LIVERPOOL

    DWDDL

  • TOTTENHAM

    WLDWL

  • CHELSEA

    DWWWW

Chelsea have won seven of the eight games the France striker has started, and he has scored five goals in his last five games.

And Giroud believes the club can still snag a top-four place despite the odds, pointing to his experience of mustering late surges at the Gunners as cause for optimism.

Victory will put Chelsea, who are on a four-game winning streak in the league, level on points with Liverpool with one game to play.

Giroud also feels he and his team-mates can take heart from Spurs' recent dip, with the fourth-placed team having won only once in four league games.

Said the 31-year-old: "I hope I can be the lucky charm for the Champions League race in the final sprint. We don't have it in our hands but I have experience about these kind of end-of-season situations.

"I'm confident because if we play with that kind of mentality, we can have nice things."

Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino, however, praised his side's "progression" this term despite another trophyless season and has set his sights on leapfrogging Liverpool into third place.

Spurs play Newcastle at Wembley today before wrapping up their campaign with another home game against Leicester on Sunday.

"For me, (there has been) amazing progression," Pochettino, who revealed that midfielder Eric Dier would miss the Magpies fixture, told reporters yesterday.

"If you analyse all in context, it is an amazing season. With two games left, to finish third is a massive success.

"For me, it is like a marathon to create a team capable to win. It is not a 100m sprint. It is 42km, a long-term development."

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN


CHELSEA V HUDDERSFIELD

Singtel TV Ch102 & StarHub Ch227, tomorrow, 2.45am

TOTTENHAM V NEWCASTLE

Ch103 & Ch228, tomorrow, 2.50am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2018, with the headline 'Future not priority: Conte'. Print Edition | Subscribe