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Chelsea boss Antonio Conte praises ‘fantastic’ former rival Luis Enrique

The Spaniard has been linked with Conte’s Stamford Bridge job.

Under-pressure Chelsea manager Antonio Conte admits he is a big admirer of his potential successor Luis Enrique.

Conte’s position at Stamford Bridge has been the subject of constant speculation, with Spaniard Enrique reportedly one of the prime candidates to replace him.

The pair were opponents during their midfield playing days and have also been in opposing dugouts as managers.

That occurred when Conte was at Juventus and while Enrique – who is currently on a break from management after leaving Barcelona – was in charge of their Serie A rivals Roma.

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Luis Enrique

Setting aside the persistent rumours, Conte said he regards Enrique extremely highly.

“Yes, yes. I knew him. When I was the coach of Juventus, he was Roma’s coach. Yes. I have spoken with him,” said Conte.

“We played against each other, and he’s a really good person. I have great admiration for Luis Enrique and he is a fantastic coach.

“He reached his targets with Barcelona, and also with Roma, you could see a well organised team. I can speak about him very well, as a person and a coach.”

Speculation that Conte could leave west London before his contract expires in summer 2019 has increased in the past fortnight following successive heavy defeats to Bournemouth and Watford.

The Premier League champions have failed to mount a substantial title defence and now face a battle to secure Champions League football for next season with a top-four finish.

Conte will come under growing pressure should they fail to win at home to bottom club West Brom on Monday evening.

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Antonio Conte

The Italian, who has repeatedly expressed a desire to see out his existing deal, insists there will be no hard feelings towards Luis Enrique should he ultimately take his job.

“We do this job, and our job is not ‘difficult’, but you must be open and understand the situation can change,” Conte added.

“A club can take different decisions. It’s the same for me.

“But, I repeat, I’m not jealous or envious of other managers. Everyone knows his job, his work.

“I have, usually, a great respect.”

The Blues remain without star striker Alvaro Morata due to a back injury, while midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko will also sit out the Baggies game because of a one-match ban following his dismissal at Watford.

Centre-back Andreas Christensen is a big doubt as he looks to overcome a hamstring problem, but recent signing Olivier Giroud could make his first start since arriving from Arsenal.

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