Conte: It is a pity Chelsea sold De Bruyne

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The Italian has admitted he would rather the Belgian playmaker was not playing for Manchester City in the clash at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has admitted it is a "pity" the Blues sold Kevin De Bruyne ahead of their clash with Manchester City on Saturday.

Conte's side have won seven consecutive top-flight matches and sit one point clear of Liverpool and City at the top of the Premier League ahead of the meeting at the Etihad Stadium.

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De Bruyne is likely to play a key part in City's attempts to overturn that deficit, with the Belgian having developed into one of the world's outstanding midfield playmakers since Chelsea allowed him to join Wolfsburg in 2014.

And Conte has admitted he is an admirer of a player the Blues allowed to slip from their grasp under Jose Mourinho.

"De Bruyne played with Chelsea and I think he is a really great player," Conte said when asked if Chelsea had let De Bruyne go prematurely.

"It is a pity that now he is playing for another team.

"For sure this is the case because he is a fantastic player, but now he plays with Manchester City. I wish him the best - after our game."

Conte is hoping to be able to name another unchanged team against Chelsea's title rivals but will check on the freshness of a couple of members of the starting XI that has hit such fine form.

He continued: "No injuries at the moment, we have to check on the physical condition of one or two players and then decide the line-up tomorrow. I prefer to keep this secret.

"I'm pleased for all the players that are playing. Those on the bench understand. There is the right atmosphere.

"I think tomorrow it’s a really tough game. It is a great test for us, for our formation, to continue this way. We know that it won't be easy because we face a really great team, with a great idea of football.

"I think it is another step to show if something has changed compared to the start of the season.

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"For sure it is a big game. This season we played also a big game against Arsenal Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham, but I think in this league every game is a big game because it's very difficult and very tough.

"For me this is my first season in English football and these games are new in my career experience. It's fantastic and I'm looking forward to playing."