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Sunday 19 November 2017

Conte expecting sleepless nights after Palace defeat

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte reacts during the Premier League defeat to Crystal Palace on Saturday. Photo: Reuters
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte reacts during the Premier League defeat to Crystal Palace on Saturday. Photo: Reuters

Antonio Conte revealed he would struggle to sleep after watching Chelsea produce perhaps their worst performance of his reign as manager in a 2-1 defeat at Crystal Palace.

Against a team that had lost each of their previous seven Premier League fixtures this season without scoring a solitary goal, Chelsea suffered their second successive defeat and third from eight games in the league.

The latest, following Cesar Azpilicueta’s own goal and Wilfried Zaha’s first-half finish, means the defending champions have already fallen nine points behind first-placed Manchester City and manager Conte has demanded an instant reaction.

“It will be very difficult for me to sleep,” he said. “You know I don’t like to lose: imagine when you lose two in a row. My soul is bad. 

“We must have the same sensation, me and my players, to change in the next game and be positive.

Palace hero Wilfried Zaha. Photo: PA Wire
Palace hero Wilfried Zaha. Photo: PA Wire

“(It was) difficult from the start. Our start was poor - you have to start with more personality, otherwise you allow your opponent to take confidence.

“We conceded the first goal, then we were able to come back and, in the last few minutes of the first half, concede another bad goal. Then it was very difficult.”

Chelsea host Roma in the Champions League on Wednesday, when the influential N’Golo Kante will again be missing, along with Victor Moses and potentially Alvaro Morata.

Before their two latest defeats, the first against City, Chelsea had excelled in winning at Atletico Madrid, and Conte admitted midfielder Kante is difficult to replace.

“To lose a player like Kante is not simple because he’s able to cover a lot of the pitch,” added the 48-year-old Italian. “Our balance was poor.

“Moses is out (on Wednesday) because he’s injured (after being substituted in the first half). I don’t know if his injury is serious. Kante is still out, and I hope to have Morata back.”

The victory represented Roy Hodgson’s first as Palace manager, with his last victory in the dugout coming when England defeated Wales at Euro 2016.

Palace impressed with their intensity and, after they scored their first league goal for 731 minutes, they recovered admirably from Tiemoue Bakayoko’s headed equaliser to regain the lead and then convincingly defend it. “You forget how stressful those last minutes of a football match are,” said Hodgson.

“It’s quite nice to be sitting here relaxed knowing nothing can happen, and that Chelsea can’t score now. That feeling is enough for me. I don’t feel the need to celebrate.”

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