Antonio Conte: Chelsea manager to stay despite thrashing by Watford

Antonio Conte will not be sacked as Chelsea manager in the wake of their 4-1 thrashing defeat at the hands of Watford on Monday night.

Conte’s position was not discussed after the match, and expects to oversee the game against West Bromwich Albion next week.

The fact that Chelsea still remains in the top four of the Premier Leauge and are still in the running for both the Champions League and FA Cup were cited as reasons not to make a managerial change right now, while it was also understood that the Italian has since given his players three days off.

Conte also admitted his team had played “with fear” at Vicarage Road and rejected using injuries and fatigue as an excuse for their poor form, but conceded that an empty week is an opportunity to grant his players a rest amidst a busy schedule since the turn of the year.

With the defending champions are now fourth in the Premier League and 19 points behind leaders Manchester City, Conte said that “the club have to take another decision” if they think he is not doing a good enough job.

Still, there is support for the former Juventus coach as Blues captain Gary Cahill has voiced out his support for Conte, saying that the players needed to “look in the mirror” after the Blues’ second straight three-goal defeat.

“The manager has done an absolutely unbelievable job,” Cahill added. “This is the worst I’ve felt for quite a while. Performance-wise at Watford I didn’t recognise us or myself. It was abysmal. We just need to keep strong. I’ve been here before at this club: it’s about staying calm. But it hurts a lot when you come off after a performance like that.”

Meanwhile, Chelsea have denied reports in Spain that their director Marina Granovskaia has met the former Barcelona manager Luis Enrique about succeeding Conte and insist it remains business as usual at the club despite only two wins in 10 games since the turn of the year.

Antonio Conte challenges Chelsea to make “statement of support”

Antonio Conte has challenged the hierarchy at Chelsea to issue a statement of support” to back his tenure and quash suggestions his job is under threat.

Conte will go into Monday’s game at Watford with his side 19 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City. Chelsea’s title defense has been reduced to a campaign for a finish in the top four at best as a testing second campaign in charge reaches its final months.

There have also been alleged tensions behind the scenes between Conte and club officials over recruitment, as well as concerns over the intensity of his training and calls of late from the head coach for the board to show “realism” and “patience”.

Although it appears inevitable to many that Conte will leave Chelsea in the summer, the head coach has called for a public show of support to demonstrate he retains the board’s backing even in the short term.

“I must be honest, there were these type of rumours and speculation [that he might be sacked] even after the first game of the season when we lost against Burnley,” Conte said.

“Maybe I’d like the club to prepare a statement for me, no? To say they trust me in my work and my job.But, at the same time, I know this never happened in the past, so why should I hope for something different? But, for sure, I’d like to have a statement of support against this speculation.”

Chelsea have played 40 games this season — that number was 28 at this stage last year — and there had been concerns Conte has not eased the intensity of training.

However, the former Italian international coach insists that it was in the contrary, saying: “If you compare to the other clubs, we have fewer injuries. The only problem is that, this season, we are playing a lot more and our squad wasn’t big enough to give them the right rest. We are working less [in training] than last season. A lot less.”

“For sure, you have to change your plan, your work. When you play every three days, it’s impossible to give intensity in these two days between one game and another. Sometimes, when I have had the possibility, I have tried to do a little window of work for the players I had decided to rest [after a game].

Pep Guardiola: City to keep tabs on Riyad Mahrez availability into summer

Pep Guardiola has suggested that Manchester City will go back in for Leicester winger Riyad Mahrez over the summer after the Premier League leaders missed out on a deal as the deadline passed with January.

Mahrez has spent much of the last two windows attempting to leave the King Power Stadium, with transfer requests being tabled by the want-away 26-year-old.

However, Leicester’s demands and reluctance to sell have seen the unsettled star blocked from heading for the exits, with City being the latest side to have been left frustrated after having mounted a late winter bid to land the 2016 PFA Player of the Year.

Nonetheless, City coach Pep Guardiola believes that his club is prepared to rekindle their interest of the player at the end of the season.

“He’s a Leicester player,” the former Barca and Bayern Munich coach said. “Everybody knows we were trying but we cannot afford, in this moment, this amount of what they are asking. I understand perfectly.”

“We tried to do it in the summertime, we tried to do it now, but like summer, they locked the door. It was not possible. With [Aymeric] Laporte, yes, with the other one, no. We are going to see what happens in the summer.”

City’s interest as the deadline ends led the Foxes star to hand in his latest transfer request, but Leicester refused to budge despite the Manchester’s club willingness to go as high as £65m in their pursuit of another creative influence.

Leicester are understood to have been demanding as much £95m .

As a result of the failed negotiations, no deal was done and Guardiola was unable to bring in cover for Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus during their respective injury-enforced spells on the sidelines.