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Conte expects ‘tough game’ at Burnley but is not fazed by title pressure

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Friday’s press conference was an even more banal affair than usual, but let’s see what the Chelsea boss had to say beyond just team news.

Antonio Conte earned his first clean sheet in charge of Chelsea against Burnley at Stamford Bridge back in August, as the Blues notched an easy 3-0 win over the Clarets thanks to goals from Hazard, Willian, and Moses. Twelve clean sheets later, Conte is expecting none of the same.

While Burnley have the worst away record in the league with one draw and ten losses from eleven games played, they have the third-best home record behind only Chelsea and Spurs. They have not lost at home since late November and are currently on a seven-match winning streak at Turf Moor in all competitions.

"It will be a really tough game because I read with great attention the stats and Burnley have taken 28 points at home and one away, which means they have 29 points and 28 of them have been won at home. They won their last five home matches and scored a lot at the end of games."

"The stats show Burnley are really strong at home. They’re third in the table for home matches, we are first with 33 points, Tottenham are second with 32 and Burnley are third. We must pay great attention, they are in good form and want to beat us because we are top. We have prepared very well for the game and my players know what we will face."

"This is the second time that we play them, I think Andre Gray is a really good player, he’s very clever and stays in the right position when they win second balls to attack the space in the defensive line."

"They are a really good team, they play a lot of long balls and put pressure on you when you have the ball. It’s important to know the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition and we have studied them well. When you arrive after games against Liverpool and Arsenal it’s important to give continuity and try to win, but I know it won’t be easy."

-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC

Chelsea don’t play until Sunday early afternoon this weekend, which means that by the time kickoff comes around, the lead at the top of the table could be reduced to “just” six points — although that would require Spurs to beat Liverpool at Anfield. Either way, Conte’s keen on keeping the squad focused and under the right “tension”.

"I think until the end of the season we have to live with this type of pressure. Whether we play before or after the pressure is the same. If our opponents win it reduces the gap, if they don’t we can increase it."

"It’s important to think about ourselves. Now we are at the top of the table so we can count only on our game. If good news arrives about the other teams we’ll be happy but we must count on ourselves."

"Honestly, I think there are six teams who are very strong and can fight to win the title. Manchester United? Yes. They have a great squad. If we think we have a nine-point lead and we are close to winning the title it’s a big mistake."

"There are 14 games to play and five teams as well as us who can fight to win it. It’s important we don’t make mistakes in the race."

Chelsea’s biggest strength this season has been the consistency shown against teams outside the top six, with the Blues winning 15 of 16 and drawing just the one unlucky game at Swansea. There’s no reason to think we will let up at this point, but the right concentration has to be kept. With just two games left against the top six from the remaining 14 games this season, Chelsea’s title will be won or lost in matches against the mid-table and the relegation contenders.

"To beat Everton was very good because they are another really strong team. Now they are not in the top six but the gap is tight and they are close. We had another tough game against West Brom but, honestly, in England, if you ask me before a match if it will be an easy game my reply is always the same, there are no easy games and we have lots of examples."

"There are teams at the bottom who win and draw so you must have the right concentration. If your ambition is to stay in the top four or top six, you can have highs and lows. If you want to win [the title] you must have concentration and focus and know that in every game you can lose points."

-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC

Having conceded just one goal in their last six games at home, Burnley will no doubt make it incredibly frustrating for Chelsea to gain all three points on Sunday. The next game is always the toughest game, and this one promises to live up to that cliche. But the confidence is there go and get a result and maintain the push towards the title.

Chelsea v Arsenal - Premier League Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images