Football

Blues' best yet to come

Chelsea equal club record of 11 straight wins, but Conte says they can still improve

Chelsea's relentless march towards the Premier League title continued with a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Diego Costa's 13th Premiership goal of the season helped the Blues equal a club record of 11 straight league victories as they maintained their stranglehold at the top of the table.

Boss Antonio Conte's 14 wins in his opening 17 league games is also a first for a manager new to the English top flight.

But, the Italian warned that the best is yet to come.

Insisting that his side are not getting carried away with their blistering form, he said after the match: "We can improve, though. You can always improve in different aspects.

"I am pleased with this level we have reached and, with work, we can improve.

"We are working very well and are in a good position.

"We must not look at the table. We must not look at our rivals. We must continue to work hard ourselves."

Midfielder Nemanja Matic shared the same sentiments as his manager, explaining that the 11-game run highlighted just how focused the team are.

It’s a pity... because he’s in good formChelsea manager Antonio Conte, on star striker Diego Costa, who is suspended for the Boxing Day clash with Bournemouth

He said: "'We can improve, of course. Sometimes, when we are 1-0 up, we have to find a way to kill the game because 1-0 in the Premier League against a team like Crystal Palace is very dangerous, because they can score at any time and they have good attackers.

"I am sure that we can improve and that he (Conte) knows what we have to do in the future.

But the Serbian midfielder insisted that Chelsea "are not favourites" because there are "many hard games" ahead.

Former England and Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy, however, believes that the Blues are a team playing without any weaknesses, and are certainly the favourites for the Premier League crown.

"I can't see one area in their team where they're struggling at the moment," said the BBC Match of the Day analyst.

"It's fantastic for Chelsea supporters and worrying for everyone else."

He added: "They've got two home games (against Bournemouth and Stoke) coming up which they'd expect to win and that would really give them a lead.

"If they can keep everyone fit, they're the favourites."

If there was anything negative that came out of their win over Palace, it was Costa picking up his fifth booking of the season.

It means the Spaniard will miss the home clash with Bournemouth on Boxing Day.

COSTA BANNED

His absence may present a rare chance for Belgium international striker Michy Batshuayi, who has yet to start a Premier League fixture since arriving from Marseille.

Conte, who also has N'Golo Kante on the suspension list, said: "It's a pity for Diego because he's in good form.

"Against Bournemouth, we'll have to find a different situation.

"This can be an opportunity to see other solutions, other ideas.

"With Batshuayi, it's not easy to arrive and to adapt to this league. The football is very tough and very physical.

"I think Michy has great quality. He's very young and it's important for him to work to improve." - WIRE SERVICES

eplCHELSEA (EPL)Bournemouth