Conte wants collective responsibility for Chelsea’s season
The Blues’ final trophy chance is the FA Cup, with Leicester Sunday’s quarter-final opponents.
Antonio Conte has told his Chelsea players they must share the responsibility for an at-times tumultuous season.
The Blues won the Premier League and reached the FA Cup final in 2016-17, Conte’s first season as boss, and have won trophies with regularity despite a high turnover of managers.
There has been constant speculation this season over the Italian’s position, which will only increase if Chelsea fail to beat Leicester in the FA Cup on Sunday and then fall further adrift of the Premier League top-four by not beating Tottenham on April 1.
Conte says Chelsea must receive the plaudits and any flak as a collective.
“Like last season when we won the title and reached the final of the FA Cup, it’s always the same,” he said.
“We must be ready to share the responsibility with the club, the players and with me and my staff. This must be very clear.”
The Champions League exit to Barcelona on Wednesday means Chelsea’s final trophy chance this term is the FA Cup, which resumes with Sunday’s quarter-final at Leicester.
Chelsea are also fifth in the Premier League, four points behind fourth-placed Spurs with eight games remaining.
The next Premier League clash with Tottenham is crucial to Chelsea’s hopes of a top-four finish and qualifying for Europe’s elite competition next term.
“We have to try to do both,” Conte said.
“To try to reach the semi-final in the FA Cup it won’t be easy. Leicester is a good team. In the last game we played at home we suffered against them (drawing 0-0).
“Then to try to do our best also in the league, to find a place in the Champions League. It won’t be easy.”
Conte has rotated his options in previous FA Cup rounds, but will field his first-choice line-up against the Foxes.
Goalkeeper Willy Caballero has started in prior rounds and could continue after Lionel Messi twice scored through the legs of Thibaut Courtois at the Nou Camp.
“Now we are not playing every three days,” the Italian added.
“We played Barcelona, but we’ve had whole weeks to recover and rest. For this reason I’ll pick the best solution for Sunday’s game.”
England defender Gary Cahill and Spain striker Alvaro Morata have found themselves out of the team of late and were left out of their respective national teams for this month’s friendlies, placing their World Cup hopes in jeopardy.
Antonio Conte says his aim is to have his players in the best form for Chelsea, and then it is up to national team managers whether they select our players for their squads.— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) March 16, 2018
Former Italy boss Conte said: “My only worry is to try to have the players in the best form for Chelsea. Then there is a national team coach to make the best decision for the country.”
Conte called on Cahill and Morata to earn their places in the Chelsea team first, adding that the Blues had too many issues for Conte to be concerned by the World Cup.
“There is only one way: to work hard and to show you deserve to play,” Conte added.
“I don’t see another way. Don’t complain.
“But it’s important for us to look at our problem. If I have to look at the problems of the national teams, it’s not the right time for me.”