Chelsea won't down tools in the final weeks of the season, says Conte

Antonio Conte Chelsea
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The Blues boss doesn't care about his popularity within the dressing room and he doesn't think that it should affect his players or their motivation

Antonio Conte has denied that his players are struggling for motivation with a top four finish looking unlikely and he has called on the group to play for the shirt, rather than to play just for him.

Chelsea started poorly against Southampton and found themselves 2-0 down at St Mary's Stadium on Saturday on the hour mark.

Conte managed to change Chelsea's fortunes by bringing on Olivier Giroud who scored two goals, either side Eden Hazard's strike, as Chelsea ran out 3-2 winners. It was suggested that Chelsea looked like they weren't playing for the manager as they struggled until that point, but Conte denies that was the case.

"I think that I can’t accept these comments because I think that I was a player and that the player must play every game, not for me, but for the club and fans," Conte told reporters at St Mary's Stadium. "They must have great respect for this badge, they don’t have to play for the coach, they have to play for the club and for our fans.

"To show great character, like today. This is the best possible way for a player to show that he is a fantastic professional. Now, the most important thing is that my players, they have had this reaction, it doesn’t matter if the coach speaks at half-time or says anything [at all].

"I think the most important thing is that in the second half, I saw the right reaction of all my players. I think you have to play to try to win because we work very hard every day. I work very hard, my staff work very hard and my players work very hard.

"Especially in this type of situation when there is a great difficulty, you must show that you are a man rather than just a player. I think this happened in the second half."

The comeback against Southampton meant that Conte's side got only their fourth league win of 2018 and the club now goes into a tough week, with an away trip to Burnley ahead of the FA Cup semi-final that is also against the Saints.

Conte said that the performance levels were hugely different between the first and second half, more than at any other time during his leadership of the west London club.

"Yes [it was the biggest difference that I have seen at Chelsea]," He continued. "For sure, in the first half I was very disappointed for the way we were playing. For the spirit that we were showing during the game. I said in the second half that we must be pleased because I saw the right fire and desire in my players.

Olivier Giroud Southampton Chelsea Premier League

"I saw the right will to comeback and find a difficult result because when you are 2-0 down it is not simple. We must be pleased and as I said before a lot of times, we have to try to finish this season in the best possible way. In every game, we have to show great enthusiasm, great passion, great spirit and great desire to try to fight for these colours, this team and our fans.

"We must show this in every game and today, I think that in the first half we didn’t do this and I am the first person to take the responsibility for this, because I am the coach of this team. In the second half, we must be pleased because we have had a great reaction and I hope from now until the end of the season to see this fire in the eyes

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"of my players.I think that it is not a problem about the formation or about my choices in the starting eleven. It is important that in every game to have the right passion, enthusiasm and spirit. The most important thing is this. I think the coach has to transfer this to the players. When you are not able to do this, it means you have to take responsibility."

Antonio Rudiger was left out of the squad to face Southampton after his comments from the previous week appeared to criticise his own manager. Conte once again refused to comment on the situation.

"No, I think it was a tactical decision today about Rudiger."