Belfast Telegraph

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Chelsea boss Antonio Conte not focusing on next season

Conte says he club and the players should share the blame with him for the Blues’ underachievement.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has revealed he is not preparing for next season as speculation over his future continues.

He has also insisted that his players must share the responsibility for the decline that means last season’s Premier League champions are unlikely to qualify for the Champions League this year.

The Italian’s future has been the subject of uncertainty throughout the season, during which he has criticised the club’s transfer policy, while Napoli’s Maurizio Sarri is the latest manager to be linked with Conte’s position.

Chelsea can still win the FA Cup but are 10 points off the top four with only six league fixtures remaining, and their manager distanced himself from the responsibilities he believes lie with the club.

After repeatedly insisting he was not in a position to discuss his future plans for his squad, Conte was asked if he was preparing for next season.

He paused before responding: “The most important thing is to be focused on the present. Then there is the club who, for sure, are working for the future.

“There is a situation where we have to think about the present, to work very hard and try and improve your future.

“It is very difficult to talk about the future. Now we must be focused on the present to try and finish the season as strongly as possible. This must be our target.

“Now it’s not right to see forward because the present is very important for us. More important than the future.

“We have to finish this season. We have six games in the league. We have a semi-final in the FA Cup. Then will come the time to speak about the future.”

On Saturday the Blues visit relegation-threatened Southampton in the Premier League, eight days before the clubs meet at Wembley in an FA Cup semi-final.

Conte, who remains without the injured David Luiz and Ethan Ampadu, said: “When you have this type of season you have to share this responsibility. I’m the coach. I’m the coach of this team. I’m the first person to take my responsibility. But, for sure, I’m not alone.

“We made a lot of mistakes this season. When I talk about a lot of mistakes, I involve me, my staff, the players and the club.

“When we win or when we lose, we must be ready to share the responsibility. I’m the first to take my responsibility. Then there is the club. Then there is the players.

“If we don’t qualify for the Champions League, it means that we have to divide the fault, also with the players.”

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