Conte claims Eden Hazard is priceless; wary of title contenders
Antonio Conte isn’t getting ahead of himself.
[ MORE: Mourinho on transfer plans ]
Ahead of Chelsea’s trip to Burnley on Sunday (Watch live, 8:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) Conte spoke to the media about coping with the pressure which will build up over the next few months for the west London club.
With Chelsea nine points clear of second-place Tottenham Hotspur heading into this weekend, Conte insists his side are focused on every single game.
He also insisted that Belgian winger Eden Hazard -- who scored a sublime goal in the 3-1 win against Arsenal last weekend -- is not being sold.
As for Chelsea’s title rivals being at least nine points behind them heading into Week 25, Conte is staying cool and is wary of the chasing pack clambering for a top four spot and the title.
“Honestly, I think there are six teams who are very strong and can fight to win the title. Manchester United? Yes. They have a great squad. If we think we have a nine-point lead and we are close to winning the title it’s a big mistake. There are 14 games to play and five teams as well as us who can fight to win it. It’s important we don’t make mistakes in the race.”
Chelsea’s trip to Burnley is an intriguing one.
On paper they should wipe the floor with the Clarets given the caliber of players both teams possess and the money spent to assemble those squads. However, Sean Dyche’s men are formidable at home.
They’ve picked up nine wins in the Premier League this season and all nine have come at home.
Chelsea will have to deal with the direct threat of playing against Andre Gray and Sam Vokes, while Burnley will let them have the ball and sit deep so Chelsea can’t spring their devastating counter attacks.
Conte knows that if Chelsea slip up the likes of Tottenham, Manchester City and even Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United will feel like they’re back in the title race.
The pressure will increase each week between now and the end of the season. If Chelsea can grind out a win away at Burnly in hostile surroundings, it may be just as big as their victory against Arsenal and their draw at Liverpool which preceded it.
Being able to handle the pressure of a chilly Lancashire day in February is what separates a champion from the contenders.