Conte still wary of Chelsea’s pursuers
Antonio Conte believes any of six teams could still win the Premier League despite his Chelsea side moving 10 points clear at the summit after drawing 1-1 at Burnley.
Chelsea negotiated a potentially difficult visit to Turf Moor on Sunday, where Burnley have the third-best home record in the division, behind only Chelsea themselves and Tottenham Hotspur.
But despite the solid result, and commanding lead at the top of the table over second-place Tottenham, Conte refused to discuss his team’s increasingly strong chances of winning the championship.
“That’s normal. There are 13 games before the end,” said the Chelsea manager, whose side’s advantage will be cut to eight points if Manchester City win at Bournemouth on Monday.
“If someone thinks this league is finished, I can tell you now, no.
“There are six teams for me that can win the league and anything can happen. We must continue to work in this way.
“I am happy for the commitment and the will to win. You can only take one point, but I am sure of the commitment.
“We have to think only of ourselves, not the other teams. It is important to play your game, to think about your game and then you think about the other results.”
While Spurs are 10 points back, there are four teams — Arsenal, Liverpool, City and Manchester United — within two points of Mauricio Pochettino’s side and ready to pounce if Chelsea falter.
Pedro shot Chelsea into an early lead at Burnley, who were looking for a sixth consecutive top-flight home league victory for the first time in 56 years.
But Robbie Brady, the club-record £13 million ($16.2 million, 15.3 million euros) January signing from Norwich City, marked his home debut with a superb free-kick leveller mid-way through the first half.
“I am disappointed because our mentality must be that we have to try always to win and we did this today,” said Conte.
“But sometimes you must understand that there are tough games and this was very tough, but I am pleased we tried to win.
“I am disappointed for the result, not for the commitment and the will to win. I like to always to take three points.”
– ‘Sublime’ Brady –
Conte was also quizzed about comments made by former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho after his current club Manchester United beat Watford 24 hours earlier.
The Portuguese manager made a veiled reference to Chelsea’s style of play, labelling them “defensive”, but Conte laughed off the comments.
“I don’t like to reply to the other coaches,” Conte said. “I don’t like this. He is joking. I have experience to understand this.”
Burnley manager Sean Dyche was delighted with the attitude his team showed, especially having gone behind to such an early goal from a team who appear destined for the title.
“First of all, they are top-class, not just by the league table,” said Dyche.
“Pockets of their play are excellent and you can use it as a guideline to see we have moved forward.
“The team looks more assured. You are playing against the top end of the market. The mentality as well, we have plenty of that glue to hold a team together.”
Dyche paid tribute to Brady, who also scored against Conte the last time he faced the Chelsea manager, when he was playing for Ireland against Conte’s Italy at last year’s European Championship in France.
“It was a sublime free-kick against a top-class goalkeeper, a giant of a man,” said Dyche in reference to Chelsea number one Thibaut Courtois.
“To find that area of the goal was fantastic. To get put into that game was not easy for him.
“He’s just signed for a new club, he’s getting a feel for how the team works, but he held his own in a really tough game.”