Conte impressed by 'very positive' Chelsea solidity

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After another clean sheet, the manager hailed the Blues' stability as the Italian targets big things in 2018

Antonio Conte was delighted with another Chelsea clean sheet as the defending Premier League champions finished 2017 with a 5-0 thrashing of Stoke City on Saturday.

The Blues were able to shut out their opponents for the fourth successive league match, with goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois only called into action on one occasion to deny Saido Berahino.

At the other end the Blues were in fine form, with Antonio Rudiger, Danny Drinkwater and Pedro giving them a 3-0 lead after 23 minutes.

Willian and Davide Zappacosta added a touch of gloss to proceedings with late goals to leave Conte content with his side's end to the calendar year.

"I think our performance was very positive," he told a news conference. "We started the game very well, with great desire to score early. 

"In this type of game if you are able to score early the game can become easy because your opponent has to change their plan and then gives more space to your striker.

"We started very well. We wanted this. I'm very pleased with the performance and to finish another game with a clean sheet. We are showing good solidity."

The Italian was particularly impressed with Chelsea's defensive work, the reigning champions having now conceded just 14 goals in 21 games, a record only bettered by runaway leaders Manchester City.

"If you compare this season with last season we have conceded less goals. We have scored less but conceded less," he added.

"We have to continue to work really hard to try to improve. But to finish this year in this way is great for me, the players, the club and our fans.

"This was a fantastic year. To win the title in England is not simple. To be able to do this on your first chance, I will remember this year forever."

And Conte is now shifting his focus to 2018, in hopes of again securing Champions League football and perhaps putting pressure on runaway league leader Manchester City.

"For us and the other top teams in England it will be very tough [to catch City]," he said.

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"We have to know that we face five tough months because we have to fight for a place in the Champions League and it won't be easy to reach this target.

"City have created a big gap between them and the other teams, but at the same time we have to try to put everything into every game to try to get three points and put a bit of pressure on the teams above us. 

"I don't think in England you can find a game that you can take in a relaxed way."

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