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Sunday 24 September 2017

Conte's call for Chelsea to regain clinical title edge

Blues boss insists City tie not a grudge match after fireworks last December

Antonio Conte
Antonio Conte
Chelsea's David Luiz gets tackled by Manchester City's Sergio Aguero

David Luiz continues to require ongoing treatment to a knee injury sustained in a tackle by Sergio Aguero in December, but Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte says there will be no bad blood in tonight's clash between the sides.

Chelsea's 3-1 win at the Etihad Stadium ended in acrimony as City striker Aguero caught Chelsea defender Luiz on the knee, sparking a touchline melee.

Aguero and Fernandinho were sent off, the latter for pushing Cesc Fabregas over the advertising hoardings, and the clubs were punished by the English Football Association.

Conte said: "I think now his knee is better than before and for sure he needs to have the treatment.

"It's not important (the game at City). We must understand that when there is a game and above all if someone is losing the game, it can happen this type of situation. I have great respect for Aguero."

Over

Chelsea saw their 10-point lead at the top of the Premier League cut to seven with defeat at home to Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Second-placed Tottenham, who play at Swansea tonight, could cut the gap further if Chelsea drop points against City.

Pep Guardiola's City enter the fixture in fourth, 11 points adrift.

Guardiola had recently anointed Chelsea champions - something then laughed off as mind games by Conte, who denies the title race is over.

"It's normal with 27 points available that anything can happen in the league," Conte added.

"We need 21 points to win the league mathematically. I think we are in a really good position.

"Nobody thought that Chelsea could fight this season for the title, but we stay there. We stay there and we want to keep this position.

"We know there are many teams that want to win the league, but it's normal this.

"I hope that who wins this league will deserve to win the league." The defeat to Palace has not unduly concerned Conte.

He added: "It's an important part of the season, but we have to continue in the same way, to work, to work very, very hard. To prepare in the right way every single game. To keep concentration.

"I'm pleased for my players. I'm always seeing great commitment of my players.

"It can happen. You can lose a game, but I think we didn't deserve to lose the game against Crystal Palace.

"Football is wonderful also for this type of result. Now we have another game."

Yesterday marked a year to the day since Conte's appointment on a three-year contract was announced.

"The time fly," he said.

"It's good. For me this is a fantastic experience and good experience for me, for my family also.

"It's great to stay here, above all to talk about to win the league. It wasn't sure one year ago."

Conte recently conceded Chelsea's squad was inferior to that of City and Manchester United.

He insisted yesterday that was due to the absence of European football for the Blues this season.

"We have less players," Conte added.

"But we have, in our squad, good young players who are growing very well."

Victor Moses (toe) is one of "a couple of situations" to check.

Right wing-back Moses missed the Palace loss, while Eden Hazard (below) returned and completed 90 minutes following a calf injury.

Conte again declined the opportunity to discuss whether Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez would be a summer transfer target.

"I don't like to speak about other players of other clubs," he said.

"It's disrespectful for the other club and, above all, for my players. It's not the right moment to speak about this."

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