Football

Conte: Blues not succumbing to title pressure

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has dismissed suggestions that the title run-in pressure was a factor in the Blues' loss to Crystal Palace on Saturday.

The shock defeat ended their 13-game winning run at home and saw their Premier League lead cut to seven points.

Manchester City next visit Chelsea on Thursday morning (Singapore time), where an immediate response from Conte's men will be required.

"It's normal when you stay in a great club and you are very good - and also you are lucky to fight for the title - there is pressure," said Conte.

"Not (just) for us but for a lot of teams. Don't forget the other teams were candidates to win the title and instead we have stayed up the table.

"We have tried to keep this position. If you are able to keep this position, it means that we deserve it."

The Italian added that he is maintaining a step-by-step approach as Chelsea bid to close out their bid for the Premier League title.

"This league was not finished before this game and it's not finished now," Conte said.

"There are nine games to play and we have to think step by step.

"At the end (of the season), if we deserve to win the title, we will be very happy.

"If someone else deserves to win the title, it means that they have played better than us.

"When you lose this type of game in your mind, you try to apply a lot of questions.

"But it's very difficult to find a reply to this result.

"I know Man City started the season wanting to win the title. They have a really strong squad.

"But I think it's right to think about ourselves. To go game by game.

"In England, every game is very tough, whether the name of your opponent is City or another team."

The loss was only Chelsea's second since September and fourth of the season.

Following successive defeats by Liverpool and Arsenal, the Blues won 13 straight games before the loss at Tottenham on Jan 4.

They were unbeaten in nine league games before the Palace defeat.

Conte added: "If you compare this defeat with the other defeats, we were another team. But I think we are still a strong team."

However, Chelsea have not kept a clean sheet in seven Premier League games, since the defeat of Hull in January.

"For sure we know that we can improve and that needs to improve," Conte added. - WIRE SERVICES

eplCHELSEA (EPL)Antonio Conte