No second-season blues for Conte

Danny Drinkwater, in Leicester colours last season, brushing aside Arsenal's Mesut Ozil. The England international is in line to make his Chelsea debut at his former club, having moved for £35 million on deadline day.
Danny Drinkwater, in Leicester colours last season, brushing aside Arsenal's Mesut Ozil. The England international is in line to make his Chelsea debut at his former club, having moved for £35 million on deadline day.PHOTO: REUTERS

Manager sure squad can cope with upcoming pile-up with seven games in 21 days

LONDON • Chelsea manager Antonio Conte is confident his squad can cope with a far busier September compared to last year - because they know him better now.

The reigning English Premier League champions will kick off at Leicester today in sixth place on six points, one spot below West Brom and one above Watford, while Leicester are three points worse off and fifth from bottom after three games.

Tuesday's Champions League group game at home to Qarabag follows after, with Chelsea needing to fulfil seven fixtures in just 21 days, an intense schedule Conte did not have to worry about last season.

But the 48-year-old Italian was confident that all the hard work he was able to put in on the training ground in his first campaign meant his ideas were now firmly embedded in his players' minds.

"A year ago they didn't know my idea of football, my physical work and the analysis," he said.

"It is easier now for me and my job at this point of the season. The feeling is a lot better if you compare now to this time last season."

The Leicester game also provides new signing Danny Drinkwater with the opportunity to make his debut against the club that sold the midfielder for £35 million (S$61 million) on transfer-deadline day.

NO NEED TO BED IN

It is easier now for me... The feeling is a lot better if you compare now to this time last season.

ANTONIO CONTE , Chelsea manager, believes the English champions have adapted to his ways and demands a year on.

Indeed, the deal was concluded so late that Leicester's attempts to bring in a replacement - Adrien Silva from Sporting Lisbon - ended in farcical failure.

Fifa refused to grant the Portugal midfielder international clearance after Leicester missed the deadline for submitting paperwork by just 14 seconds, placing the £22 million move in doubt.

Silva will not face Chelsea but Algerian forward Riyad Mahrez is available after failing to seal a deadline-day move away.

Jamie Vardy, who has started the season strongly, has admitted he could be tempted to leave in the future to clinch more trophies, having won the Premier League two seasons ago with the Foxes.

The England striker rejected a move to Arsenal in the wake of that success. "I'm pleased with the decision I made," said Vardy. "Turning down Arsenal doesn't mean I wouldn't look at another offer.

"I want to win as much as possible, I don't want to only have one Premier League medal at home - it would be an empty glass cabinet. I'm contracted to Leicester and we'll see how high we can go.

"Down the road, there might be an opportunity to go to the MLS (Major League Soccer) or China. It would be something I'd like to experience. I know it'll involve moving the family again but it'll give them a different experience to see different cultures."

Conte will get a boost for his team's attack with Eden Hazard fit and available for selection again.

The Belgian forward has recovered following a broken ankle suffered while on international duty in June.

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LEICESTER V CHELSEA

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 09, 2017, with the headline 'No second-season blues for Conte'. Print Edition | Subscribe