Football

Conte slams reports of player unrest

Chelsea reacted angrily yesterday to newspaper reports that Carlo Ancelotti was set to replace manager Antonio Conte and that former coach Steve Holland had received texts from unhappy players who say they are missing him.

A club spokesman described the reports as "absolute nonsense" and denied that any player had contacted Holland, who left in the close-season to become the full-time assistant to England manager Gareth Southgate.

Conte, who played for Juventus under Ancelotti, a league and FA Cup Double winner with Chelsea in 2010, reacted angrily to the reports.

"There is a lot of bullshit... They try to create problems between the club, the players and I... This is a lack of respect," Conte said.

"I can accept to write the club are ready to sack me and the story with the players.

"I can accept that, but to put another person in this way, it is incorrect and it is not good that this person has to send me a message to tell me: 'I am sorry, but this is not true. If you want me to do an interview, I am ready.'

"Why put another person in this bullshit? If you want to hit me, hit me. This is incorrect and I hate this type of situation."

Conte faced criticism earlier this month after successive defeats by Manchester City and bottom club Crystal Palace, followed by a draw at home to AS Roma in the Champions League.

But, since then, Chelsea have seen an upturn in fortunes.

They ground out a late 4-2 victory over Watford last Saturday and beat managerless Everton 2-1 in the League Cup on Wednesday, leading Conte to deny it was his toughest period since taking over 17 months ago.

"I had a really tough period last season, tougher than now," he said.

The champions, fourth in the table, visit Bournemouth tomorrow morning (Singapore time) looking to repeat a two-goal win there in April.

"Their position in the table is not right," Conte said.

"They played very well in a lot of games but, sometimes, they were very unlucky."

Midfielder N'Golo Kante could be back for Wednesday's return game against Roma, the manager added. - WIRE SERVICES

Antonio ConteCHELSEA (EPL)Bournemouth