Belfast Telegraph

Euro absence boosts Chelsea bid: Conte

By Nick Purewal

Antonio Conte is aiming to take advantage of Chelsea's Champions League absence by sharpening their Premier League title challenge.

The Blues finished 10th last term, a hugely disappointing campaign that cost Jose Mourinho his job in December and represented a lacklustre and unsuccessful title defence.

Guus Hiddink steadied the ship with a calm caretaker stint, allowing Chelsea to recruit Conte on completion of his Euro 2016 duties managing Italy.

Conte exploited Juventus' lack of Champions League football to swipe the Serie A title in his first season managing the Italian giants in 2011-12, and is already eyeing a repeat in west London.

"Not playing in the Champions League could be an opportunity because I will be able to work more with my players," said Conte. "If you ask me if I prefer this situation, I don't because Chelsea must be in this competition. You do feel like you're missing something.

"It is a special competition and you want to play in it every year, but because we are not, I will have a whole week to train with my players and that gives me a chance to work with them more compared to Chelsea managers in previous seasons."

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