Belfast Telegraph

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte taking it one game at a time after Bournemouth win

Chelsea must be "realistic" in their quest to chase down leaders Manchester City and set their Premier League title defence back on track, according to Antonio Conte.

Boss Conte has admitted the Blues deserve to sit fourth in the table after a patchy 10 games in an early-season stint containing "a lot of problems".

Eden Hazard's first Premier League goal of the season guided Chelsea to a 1-0 win over Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium, leaving Conte charting an upward curve for the weeks ahead.

"At this moment we must be realistic by going game by game," said Conte, when asked to assess Chelsea's chances of catching Premier League leaders City.

"We have 19 points and we deserve to have 19 points.

"We are first in our group in the Champions League. We went into the next round of the Carabao Cup after going out in the second round last season.

"I'm very happy with this group. There are players who are very honest, players who want to fight until the end for something important.

"Are we able to do this? I don't know. But we will try to stay there.

"I know very well that, in England in this league, there are six top teams, very strong. Four go into the Champions League. Two have to stay out and play Europa League.

"Today it was important: a good win, also because the other teams all won, apart from Tottenham who lost."

Striker Alvaro Morata has now gone five games in all competitions without a goal - but Conte believes the Spain hitman will soon hit his peak after injury.

Morata missed a gilt-edged chance and also had a goal incorrectly chalked off over a bad call on a Cesar Azpilicueta offside.

"Honestly, I'm happy with his commitment, his desire, his will to fight," said Conte, of Morata.

"For sure, he can do better but, don't forget, he is recovering from a muscular problem.

"When you have this type of problem, it needs a bit of time to come back to the best physical condition. But I'm very happy with his performance."

N'Golo Kante missed Saturday's Bournemouth victory despite returning to training after hamstring trouble, but could now face Roma in Tuesday's Champions League clash.

"I hope, I hope; he could be ready," said Conte.

"But you know very well the importance of this player. I want to be sure he is ready. I'd prefer not to take a risk. If he's ready, he plays."

Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe admitted the Cherries are becoming increasingly "concerned" by letting promising performances go unrewarded, having won just twice in 10 games to remain 19th.

"These performances can be misleading; they hurt you" said Howe.

"It's a crisis in the Premier League when you lose one game. It's a commonly used word.

"We're concerned, of course we are. November is a massive month for us."

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