Conte: A great competition
News Mon 6 Mar 2017
Antonio Conte is delighted to see his team on course to meet their first target of the season by returning to the Champions League.
Our head coach says that fighting until the end of the campaign to qualify for Europe's elite club competition was the first goal he set his squad when he arrived last summer, but points out that given the strength of the Premier League and the number of teams with ambitions of filling one of the four Champions League spots, it is no easy task.
'We start our season to try to fight until the end to win the title, to try to fight until the end to be in the right position to go in the Champions League next season,' he said. 'This was our target but for sure it isn't easy and at the start of the season there were six strong teams to fight for the title, to fight for the Champions League.
'Don't forget, of these six teams, two won't play in the Champions League next season. So in this league it is very, very difficult to win the title, but also to find a place to play in the Champions League is not easy.'
However, Conte sees that competition as the rightful place for a team with as much quality as the current Blues side, having recently sampled it while viewing one of our Premier League title rivals.
'I watched Manchester City against Monaco because I wanted to breathe the atmosphere again and to feel this type of game. For me and my players, I think the Champions League must be an appointment for us every year. The Champions League must be our home and for this reason we are putting all our strength into playing in it next season. It's a great competition for every single player, club and manager. We want to stay there and try to fight to win it.'
The next opponent standing between us and another three points towards the quest for Champions League qualification and the Premier League title are West Ham United, who we face at the London Stadium this evening. Conte knows the threat Slaven Bilic's side poses only too well after our League Cup defeat when we visited the same ground earlier this season, but insists his team are fully prepared for another testing encounter.
'This game against West Ham for us is very important. In the last game for sure they played their football very peacefully against us. Maybe it can happen again the same against West Ham tonight, but for this reason we are preparing for this kind of situation. It can be a really tough game.'