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Antonio Conte

Chelsea are not above the Europa League, says Antonio Conte

00:49 GMT+3 08/04/2018
Antonio Conte Pep Guardiola Manchester City Chelsea
The Blues could miss out on Champions League football and their manager thinks they must accept their European fate, whatever the outcome may be

Antonio Conte thinks that his side must accept the "reality" of going into the Europa League, as they look likely to miss out on the Champions League after poor form throughout 2018. 

Chelsea have only won three league games this calendar year in matches against Brighton, West Brom and Crystal Palace, which has seen them become outsiders in the race for the top four. 

A 3-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge against Tottenham last Sunday was the latest setback and the Blues look to improve their fortunes against West Ham seven days later in another London derby. A victory would bring the gap to Spurs and Liverpool down to eight points, with the Blues also having an additional game in hand on the Reds. 

Ahead of the West Ham match, Conte spoke of the likely Europa League future for the club, and hopes the club will be predicted to do better next season.

"I think that for a club like Chelsea, it is important to play in the Champions League and to play in the Europa League," Conte told reporters. "We must be realistic to understand the reality. 

"It was my prediction [that we would struggle] and I now stop. Maybe next season, I will have another prediction that is better than this [season’s prediction]. I think that you become stronger after a defeat. When you win, you don’t see the real problems.

"I think that when you don’t win, you have a lot of strength to try to change your situation, to try to have a good answer. During a defeat it makes you stronger than weaker. I think now is not the right moment to speak about this topic [plans for next season]. The most important thing for us is to finish the season in the best possible way.

"To focus on the present and to go game-by-game. Then, if we arrive at the right moment, we will speak about the future."

Meanwhile, Chelsea can still call themselves champions a little while longer after Manchester City failed to officially win the league after losing 2-3 to Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday. 

City will hoist the trophy eventually, and Conte does admit there is currently a great gap between his club and the league leaders that will need to be addressed this summer.

"I think Manchester City have created a fantastic path to the league," he added. "They won the Carabao Cup. In the FA Cup, they were eliminated. Now they are in another competition, in the Champions League. I think every team has to understand what is your target before the season starts, which is your target that makes you happy about your season.

"Then to understand at the end of the season whether you reach your target or not. The table is showing that now there’s a great gap with Manchester City. To speak about the gap between us and Manchester City now is not right. The most important thing for us is to focus on ourselves and finish the season in the best possible way.

"That must be our focus. Then we arrive in the right moment to think about the way we can work to reduce this gap. We have to try to do our best in every game. We have to look forward but at the same time, we have to look behind [at Arsenal].

"The only thing we can do is to try to do everything in every game - to show great desire, to show great pride to finish the season in the best position in the table."