Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Antonio Conte won't look further ahead than Chelsea's next match

Antonio Conte is maintaining a step-by-step approach as Chelsea bid to close out their bid for the Premier League title.

The Italian head coach admits there may be no answer to Saturday's shock 2-1 loss to Crystal Palace, as the Blues' 13-game winning run at home came to an end and their Premier League lead was cut to seven points.

Manchester City next visit Chelsea on Wednesday, where an immediate response from Conte's men will be required.

"This league was not finished before this game and it's not finished now," Conte said.

"There are nine games to play and we have to think step by step.

"At the end (of the season) if we deserve to win the title we will be very happy.

"If someone else deserves to win the title it means that they have played better than us.

"When you lose this type of game in your mind you try to apply a lot of questions. But it's very difficult to find a reply to this result.

"I know Man City started the season wanting to win the title. They have a really strong squad.

"But I think it's right to think about ourselves. To go game by game.

"In England every game is very tough, whether the name of your opponent is City or another team."

Chelsea's position is still the envy of their rivals. The Blues require 21 points to be certain of the title.

Conte dismissed the suggestion that the title run-in pressure was a factor in the Blues' loss to Sam Allardyce's visitors.

"It's normal when you stay in a great club and you are very good - and also you are lucky to fight for the title - there is pressure," Conte added.

"Not (just) for us but for a lot of teams. Don't forget the other teams were candidates to win the title and instead we have stayed up the table.

"We have tried to keep this position. If you are able to keep this position it means that we deserve it."

The loss was Chelsea's second since September and fourth of the season.

Following successive defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal the Blues won 13 straight games before the loss at Tottenham on January 4. T hey were unbeaten in nine league games before the Palace defeat.

Conte added: "If you compare this defeat with the other defeats we are another team. I think we are a strong team."

Still Chelsea have not kept a clean sheet in seven Premier League games, since the defeat of Hull in January.

"For sure we know that we can improve and that needs to improve," Conte added.

A second successive win at Stamford Bridge - after a 33-year wait for the first - saw Allardyce's men move to 31 points, further away from relegation danger.

Cesc Fabregas gave Chelsea a fifth-minute lead, but the excellent Wilfried Zaha equalised four minutes later and Christian Benteke, who also played well, struck Palace's second after 11 minutes.

A resilient defensive display and numerous fine saves from goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey saw Palace prevail.

Zaha returned to Palace after a short and unhappy spell at Manchester United, while his decision to choose Ivory Coast over England was scrutinised during the international break.

Asked if he was concerned about Palace's ability to keep Zaha, Allardyce said: "Wilf is on a long contract Steve (Parish, the Palace chairman) tells me, so there is not that danger at the moment of losing Wilf.

"Wilf made a decision to play for the country he was born in. So it's happened and certainly at the moment he is playing outstanding football.

"To perform like that against the best defence in the league is obviously something that everybody will take notice of.

"His goal was very important, the timing of it, and then Christian after that one was obviously equally important because that was the winner for us."

Palace want a fifth straight win at Southampton on Wednesday to move further away from the drop zone.

Both teams could face Football Association action after pyrotechnics were set off during the match.

Three arrests were made in connection to the pyrotechnics, while further individuals were barred from entry to the ground for possession of pyrotechnics.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph