Tired Chelsea switching focus to top-four Premier League finish, says Conte

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The Blues boss wants to secure European football next season and says he won't let his stars take their foot off the gas in the league

Antonio Conte says he has given up on winning the Premier League title but doesn't want his players to relax as he regards Champions League qualification as an important target. 

The 48-year-old manager admitted that Chelsea weren't clinical enough in their recent defeat to West Ham at the London Stadium — leaving them lagging behind the Manchester clubs in the table. 

However, he believes that there's still something to play for in the league and is wary to avoid a repeat of the 2015-16 season, when the Blues ended up finishing without European qualification. 

"Yes, but there’s a problem in this league. There are six top teams and there are only four places for the Champions League and two places for the Europa League," Conte said after the 1-0 defeat. "You have targets, Also, if Manchester City has many points over you, you have an important target to try to get into the top four and play in the Champions League.

"Don’t forget, two years ago Chelsea missed this target, last season we didn’t play European games. Our priority is to play the league. I repeat, we have our target to try to play for one of the four places in next season’s Champions League.

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"Don’t forget that last season Arsenal and Manchester United were out of the Champions League, then Manchester United won the Europa League, but otherwise Manchester United and Arsenal after 19 years [would miss out].

"This target is very important for me, for the players and for all. I repeat, it is not simple to reach the first first four positions."

Chelsea had 19 shots against West Ham but failed to score on Saturday afternoon, with none of their attempts landing on target in the second half as they tried to overturn Marko Arnautovic's early strike. 

The Blues had the same problem against Atletico Madrid midweek as they required an own goal to equalise against Diego Simeone's side, despite having 17 shots. Conte admits that Chelsea aren't clinical enough in front of goal and he blames his whole team, rather than just his strikers. 

"It is not right to lose confidence, and also don’t forget today we shot 19 times but we didn’t score," he added. "For sure, we have to improve our finishing and be more clinical. In the game against Atletico Madrid, the same thing happened because we created many chances.

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"We scored but it was an own goal. Against Swansea, we won only 1-0. Against Newcastle we won 3-1 but we created a lot of chances to score. We must learn to be more clinical then to rest and recover more energy because it is not simple to play every three games. 

"This is for the whole team [to improve finishing], if you remember against Atletico Madrid, [Andreas] Christensen had two chances to score and also we have to improve as the whole team in every situation. Not just for this, this or this because we want to tell this to the players. We are a team and we must improve as a team."

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Conte faces a quick turnaround to get Chelsea ready for their match on Tuesday against Huddersfield Town after the loss in the London derby. He says he will be unable to give the players a proper dressing down for their slow start against West Ham due to the tight turnaround between matches. 

"Our start was bad. We conceded a goal and I also think that in the first 20 minutes that we didn’t win a tackle and we lost a lot of stupid balls," Conte said of the performance on Saturday. "Then after we went 1-0 down we tried to have a good reaction, but at the same time, I think today, I saw many players who were a bit tired.

"Where is the time to kill the players in training sessions?" he answered in response to how he'd respond to the defeat. "Tomorrow you have to rest and on Monday, you have to prepare in 20 minutes the game against Huddersfield."