Football

Conte relishes the pressure

Chelsea boss says he will crank up the heat on his players, if necessary

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte praised his side for soaking up all the title-race pressure and delivering a crucial 3-1 victory at Bournemouth yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Eden Hazard's masterful finish and Marcos Alonso's curled free-kick killed off the Cherries, as leaders Chelsea cemented their seven-point advantage over second-placed Tottenham, who had thrashed Watford 4-0 on Saturday.

Chelsea, who travel to Manchester United on Sunday, now need 15 points from seven matches to seal the English Premier League crown, but Conte has warned his Blues that Spurs will push the race to the wire.

"It wasn't easy to play this game after the win of Tottenham, but our reaction, our answer was very good," he said.

A GAME AT A TIME

"We started the game very well, with good concentration and focus. That pressure, it's normal.

"It's normal that when you play after your opponents that you will see your opponents very close. You can feel a bit of the pressure, but it's normal.

"I'm very happy to face this type of situation and to play with only four points ahead of our opponents."

The Italian taskmaster insisted he relishes the intense pressure surrounding Chelsea's title tilt - and even admitted he would crank up the heat on his players himself if necessary.

"I like the pressure, if I don't see pressure, I put pressure," said Conte.

"Because under pressure, you get the best from yourself."

Hailing Chelsea's response in claiming two wins in a week after their 2-1 home defeat by Crystal Palace, Conte warned his players that Spurs, who host Bournemouth on Saturday, will never give up on the title.

"There are seven games to go, and we have a schedule that's not easy," said Conte.

"But it's important to go game by game, in this case after our defeat by Crystal Palace, we played Manchester City, and we could drop points, and today we could drop points also.

"Instead, we won both games. We have to continue in this way, game by game, to be focused and to concentrate.

"Because for sure Tottenham have great desire to win the title. And we must have the same desire.

"Don't forget Tottenham last season fought for the title until the end and it means that Tottenham are a really good team."

Red-hot Hazard's tally of three goals in two games has helped to mask Diego Costa's goal drought, which has stretched to four matches.

Conte again defended the Spaniard however, insisting the 28-year-old will come good if he keeps working hard.

"I'm happy with his performance," said Conte.

"At this moment, Diego is not scoring, but he's totally involved in the team and our football... And I'm sure he can score in every game."

Meanwhile, Chelsea's wingbacks Alonso and Victor Moses both earned praise from BT Sports pundits Harry Redknapp and Glenn Hoddle for their roles in helping the Blues consolidate their position at the top.

Alonso scored his fifth EPL goal this season with an excellent free-kick, while Moses showed his importance again, having missed the loss to Palace.

Said Hoddle: "(Alonso) and Moses, at the beginning of the season, people weren't too sure about the wingbacks, but they have proved themselves. Alonso has that lovely left-foot balance.

"The number of times they change the play, he is out there all the time. The diagonal pass is always in play." - WIRE SERVICES

RESULTS

  • Tottenham 4 Watford 0
  • Manchester City 3 Hull City 1
  • Middlesbrough 0 Burnley 0
  • Stoke City 1 Liverpool 2
  • West Brom 0 Southampton 1
  • West Ham 1 Swansea 0
  • Bournemouth 1 Chelsea 3
  • Sunderland 0 Manchester United 3
eplCHELSEA (EPL)tottenham hotspur