Antonio Conte believes Chelsea must win every remaining Premier League game to beat Manchester City to the title.
On Saturday the Blues go to West Brom, where the title was secured in May in Conte’s first season as boss, with a deficit of nine points to Pep Guardiola’s City after 11 games.
Conte said: “Now Manchester City is playing very well. If you want to try to catch them, you have to win every game. If you want to try to fight for the title, it’s very important to win and not to drop points.”
Conte spoke of City’s summer strengthening, which some will suggest was a renewed expression of frustration at Chelsea’s own transfer market.
Asked about City’s summer recruitment, the Italian said: “I was worried because they were working very well in all aspects. Not only on the pitch, but off it as well. They can fight to win everything.”
Chelsea’s title triumph was built on a 13-league game winning run last autumn, with the form of defender David Luiz key to the success.
Luiz was omitted from the squad for the goalless draw with Jose Mourinho’s United prior to the international break, but the Brazilian is back in contention.
“Yes, David Luiz is in the squad,” Conte said. “When it’s a technical decision, every single player has to react well and to accept my decision. It’s normal.”
Conte was reluctant to speak about his decision to drop Luiz or any possible breakdown in relations ahead of another crucial week, with matches at Qarabag and Liverpool following the West Brom trip.
He added: “All players must be ready to play.”
He was prepared to talk of the benefits of Andreas Christensen’s presence in the squad.
Denmark international Christensen slotted in seamlessly for Luiz against United and has the same ball-playing qualities after spending two seasons on loan in the Bundesliga with Borussia Monchengladbach.
“Christensen is showing to be an important player for us,” Conte added. “He’s playing with great maturity.”
The decisive goal in the title win at The Hawthorns was scored by Michy Batshuayi, who is out with an ankle problem.
Charly Musonda (knee) is also absent, while Victor Moses is nearing a return to training following his hamstring problem.
Danny Drinkwater is available following a calf problem which led to him declining a call-up for England.
The midfielder was criticised in some quarters, but former Italy boss Conte cannot fathom why.
“He was very honest,” Conte said. “The player was clear, was intelligent. I don’t understand why we have to try always to try (to find) a problem.”
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