Football

Chelsea skipper Cahill: We're 100 per cent behind Conte

But Chelsea skipper also adds the players have no say in future of unsettled manager

Chelsea captain Gary Cahill has insisted that he and his fellow players have "no idea" about Antonio Conte's future at the English Premier League champions as they prepare to take on Bournemouth tomorrow morning (Singapore time).

The Italian led the Blues to last season's league title in his first term in charge, but he has been surrounded by speculation since the summer, with reports of a split between the club and manager over Chelsea's transfer policy.

                      EPL
CHELSEA BOURNEMOUTH

"It is between the manager and the board. We have no idea about that, we have no idea what's going on between the lines," the England centre back told reporters.

"I have experienced it a lot in my time here, but this has been a successful period. Chelsea is a successful football club and he is a top manager. We can't have any impact."

Third-placed Chelsea are 15 points behind runaway leaders Manchester City and Conte remains under pressure but Cahill insists he still has the backing of all the players.

"Of course, we are 100 per cent behind him. There is nothing between the manager and players, whatsoever," he was quoted as saying in AFP.

"If Manchester City hadn't done what they've done, the title would still be there to be won.

"This season, they've been fantastic, but we still aim to fight for second place. We have a big month coming up ... let's hope we come out at the end of that month in a positive way."

The only major signing made by the Blues during the January transfer window has been Ross Barkley from Everton for reported fee of £15 million (S$27.8m).

At yesterday's pre-match media conference, Conte said that there is little chance of them landing Roma striker Edin Dzeko to solve their problems up front.

He said on his wish to bring in a striker: "I can hope everything. The reality is this. I have to prepare the game in the right way with these players and I am happy to do this.

"I always said that I will be happy in both cases if the club adds players or I work with these players. They show great committment, but my only hope is to close the transfer window quickly."

Asked if it has been a frustrating period for him, he replied: "Frustrated?

"No, but annoyed because you have to have a press conference every three days, to always have the same questions.

"If our target is this or another, if the relationship is good or not.

"It is natural for you, to have the same questions is a bit frustrated. I am joking though."

On the pitch, however, Cahill admits his side have found it tough to deal with their recent intense run of fixtures, with Bournemouth's visit their ninth game this month.

They were beaten by Arsenal in the League Cup semi-finals last week but will host Hull City in the FA Cup fifth round and await Barcelona in the last 16 of the Champions League.

"The last couple of months have been demanding to say the least," he said.

"February is a huge, massive month for us. However heavy it is, we are not going to be able to change the fixtures.

"We just need to find the opportunity to rest, take that chance and be as fresh as we possibly can."

The Cherries are only three points above the drop zone but are unbeaten in five as they return to the scene of one of their most famous EPL results, a 1-0 win in December 2015.

"I always enjoy it, I like going there," said Junior Stanislas.

"We've lost a couple of times but we beat them there the first season after we came up, so I have some happy memories.

"Hopefully, we can create the same sort of result."

Football