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Dublin: 0 °C Wednesday 21 March, 2018

'This team has character': Conte backing Chelsea to bounce back despite title concession

The Blues under-performed in a defeat to West Ham, but their manager expects his players to respond strongly in a midweek meeting with Huddersfield.

ANTONIO CONTE IS confident his Chelsea players have the character to bounce back from their miserable defeat to West Ham when they face Huddersfield Town on Tuesday.

The reigning Premier League champions were beaten by Marko Arnautovic’s early goal at London Stadium last weekend and sit 14 points adrift of runaway leaders Manchester City.

After the loss to West Ham, Conte conceded Chelsea’s hopes of retaining their title were now over, yet he is nevertheless backing his players to respond positively at Huddersfield.

“Against Newcastle we went 1-0 down and then we won 3-1. Against Atletico Madrid we were 1-0 down and then we drew and created chances to score. I think this team has character to find the right strength and then to come back if the result is not positive,” the Italian told a news conference.

“The first thing for us is to change the final result. We lost the game against West Ham despite dominating the game, controlling the game. We shot 19 times. We created many chances to score. At the end we lost the game.”

Chelsea were handed a tough tie with La Liga leaders Barcelona in Monday’s Champions League last-16 draw and Conte is focused on ensuring his team plays in Europe’s premier club competition next term.

“My experience tells me it’s impossible to win the title,” Conte added after his comments following the West Ham game were brought up.

“Now we must be focused in the league to go game by game, to do our best. This league is not simple.

“We have to fight to find a place in the Champions League. There are a lot of targets this season.”

Chelsea’s starting line-up at Huddersfield will predictably feature changes given the quick turnaround following Saturday’s match.

“In this case it’s right to make rotations. I can do this,” Conte confirmed. “My task is to find the best solution, [but] at the same time not lose our balance.”


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