Football

Conte: Only final position matters

Blues boss says club record of 12 straight wins is unimportant if they don't clinch title

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte is "proud" that his team have set a new club record, but insisted that only their final league position in May matters to him.

The Blues notched their 12th consecutive league win with their 3-0 victory over Bournemouth on Boxing Day, and could equal Arsenal's record 14-game winning sequence at Tottenham on Jan 4, should they beat Stoke on Saturday.

During this run, Chelsea have scored 28 goals and conceded just twice, keeping 10 clean sheets.

"I hope to continue winning until the end of the season but, for sure, it is not easy," said the 47-year-old Italian.

"To win 12 games in a row is not easy in this league. It's a fantastic run but it's important to continue that now...

"With these 12 wins in a row, we took 36 points and our table position is fantastic now; it's important only for this.

IMPORTANT

"I always thought that the record is not important if at the end you don't reach something important in your championship."

Conte opted for Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas, in the absence of suspended duo Diego Costa and N'Golo Kante.

Michy Batshuayi, a £33 million (S$58.6m) signing from Marseille in July, is still without a Premier League start.

Pedro Rodriguez opened the scoring, before a 49th-minute penalty by Hazard and an injury-time own-goal by Steve Cook helped leaders Chelsea maintain a seven-point cushion over Manchester City.

Conte said: "After the Crystal Palace game, we had a week to work to find the right solution, to play for the first time without Diego, without Kante.

"After a week of work, I decide to choose this type of solution, with Eden, Pedro and Willian. I'm pleased for the performance of these players."

He added: "In general, I think a lot of people waited to see if, without two really important players - Costa and Kante - we could lose points in this game.

"It didn't happen, I am pleased for this, because I can count on all my players in the squad.

"I try in every game to make the best decision for the team without looking at the faces."

Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe admitted that his side, who won this fixture last season, struggled with Chelsea's three-pronged strike force, and particularly with Hazard.

He said: "I thought he was outstanding. When you have him and Pedro and Willian counter-attacking on you at such pace, it's difficult."

LATE SUB

Batshuayi came on only after Chelsea's late third, facing only the restart before full-time, when he was consoled by Conte.

The Chelsea manager later insisted that the Belgian will not be leaving Stamford Bridge on loan next month.

Conte said: "(He) is a new player for Chelsea and to go on loan now is a defeat for the club and, above all, for me.

"We have to continue to work with him every day to try together to improve him.

"I want to win and every decision I make is because I want to win and I have to take the best decision.

"Michy Batshuayi is a really good player, but he's young and he's trying to adapt to this league, this football.

"I try to make the best decision for the team, but I'm sure Michy could have the possibility to show his talent in the future." - WIRE SERVICES

eplCHELSEA (EPL)Bournemouth