Manchester City may be running away with the league — continuing the almost decade-long streak of no Premier League team managing to defend their title — but Chelsea have plenty to fight for, including three Cup competitions which now all have their next round matchups set. The Blues will taken on Bournemouth next midweek in the quarterfinals of the League Cup, travel to Norwich City in the third round of the FA Cup, and were just drawn against Barcelona in the last 16 of the Champions League.
But for now, the focus should remain firmly on the Premier League and what’s looking like a season-long battle for the top four.
“Now it is very important for us to be focused on the league, to go game by game, to try to find the right energy to play every three days and to take three points in the kind of game we had against West Ham.
“There is a problem in this league: there are six top teams and only four places for the Champions League. You have targets and also, if Manchester City has many points over you, you have an important target to try to go in the first four and to play Champions League. Don't forget, two years ago Chelsea missed this target and last season we didn't play European games. Last season Arsenal and Manchester United were out of these places. Then Manchester United won the Europa League, otherwise they were out [of the Champions League] and also Arsenal, for the first time in 19 years.
“To reach this target is not simple. It's very important for me, the players, for all of us. This league is not simple to reach the top four positions.”
Despite the shocking loss to West Ham (and a similarly shocking loss to Crystal Palace earlier), Chelsea are currently in good position in the top four battle. All other nearby contenders dropped points this weekend, too, so currently third Chelsea remain just three points behind Manchester United and two points ahead of Liverpool in fourth. Arsenal (three points behind) and Spurs (four points behind) are the two of the Big Six on the outside looking in at the moment.
However, for Chelsea to maintain this good position and perhaps even challenge for second, we’re not only going to have to stay focused, but improve as a team as well. Conte highlighted Chelsea’s finishing woes, which have seen the Blues score just 6 goals in 5 games, 3 of which came against Newcastle — and that’s despite Chelsea, and especially Eden Hazard, playing some pretty good football, in general.
“It's not right to lose confidence. Don't forget, we shot 19 times [against West Ham] but we didn't score. For sure we have to improve our finishing and try to be more clinical.
“The game against Atletico Madrid was the same, we created many chances – we scored but it was an own-goal. Also against Swansea, we won, but it was only 1-0. Against Newcastle we won 3-1 but we created a lot of chances to score. We must learn to be more clinical, and then to rest and recover energy, because it is not simple to play every three days.
“This is for all of the players – we are a team and we must improve as a team.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
Work hard. Improve. So say we all.
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