LONDON • Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has been deeply hurt by the Blues' disastrous title defence and admits that a season fraught with difficulties has given him sleepless nights.
Hopes that Stamford Bridge will host Champions League football next season hang by the slimmest of threads. Last Sunday's 3-1 defeat by fourth-placed Tottenham left Chelsea eight points off the qualification places before this week's round of Premier League matches.
It has given the rest of their league campaign an almost agonising complexion with little but pride to play for and the spectre of Conte's likely summer departure high on the agenda.
The Italian is adamant there will be no downing of tools and says the burden of pressure he puts on himself has been difficult to bear.
"Those who know me very well know I am very angry, I am very sad for this situation," he said, ahead of today's home Premier League match against West Ham.
"Those who know me very well know I am trying to put all of myself to change this situation because I have great responsibility.
"I feel great responsibility for my work, for my family, for everything.
GIVING HIS UTMOST
Those who know me very well know I am trying to put all of myself to change this situation because I have great responsibility.
ANTONIO CONTE (left), on his mission to improve Chelsea.
"When I go to my house, it's not that I am relaxed but I know that I gave everything and am giving everything for this club, 120 per cent, every day, every day. Sometimes, it's very difficult to sleep with these types of problems."
With seven games to play, Conte's tenure hangs in the balance amid widespread reports owner Roman Abramovich is considering moves for ex-Barcelona coach Luis Enrique and Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri.
Gianluca Vialli, a former Chelsea manager and Juventus team-mate of Conte's, claims his old friend cannot wait to leave the London club, primarily because of his lack of control over the Blues' transfer policy.
But Conte insisted that the pair had not spoken since dining together last season.
"I understand because he is now a journalist and he has to give news, to try to speak about my situation," the Italian said.
"I can be disappointed on one side but I respect him because he is a journalist and he is doing his job. He is trying to give his opinion and this is his opinion, it is not my opinion. The people who stay very close to me know very well my intentions - to stay here, to continue my job. This is the truth. You will see."
The 48-year-old reiterated that, beginning today against London neighbours West Ham, his players will not be expected to ease off.
"I do not want to see one person try to give up," he said.
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
CHELSEA V WEST HAM
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