Conte: Chelsea must be realistic about Europa League

Antonio Conte has told Chelsea to be realistic about the prospect of playing in the Europa League next season.

Last week's 3-1 defeat to Tottenham at Stamford Bridge has left the reigning Premier League champions facing what looks to be an insurmountable task to finish in the top four.

Spurs' 2-1 win over Stoke City on Saturday has moved them 11 points clear of Chelsea, who must beat West Ham on Sunday to have any realistic hope of catching their London rivals.

With the prospect of Europa League football looming in 2018-19, Conte does not believe it should come as a major surprise that the season has not panned out as hoped.

"I think that, for a club like Chelsea, it is important to play in the Champions League and to play in the Europa League," the Blues boss said. "We must be realistic to understand the reality.

"It was my prediction [that we would struggle] and I now stop. Maybe next season, I will have another prediction that is better. I think that you become stronger after a defeat. When you win, you don't see the real problems.

"I think that when you don't win, you have a lot of strength to try to change your situation, to try to have a good answer. During a defeat, it makes you stronger than weaker. 

"The most important thing for us is to finish the season in the best possible way, to focus on the present and to go game by game. Then, if we arrive at the right moment, we will speak about the future."

A win for Chelsea over the Hammers would at least close the gap to league leaders Manchester City to 25 points, with Pep Guardiola's side having lost 3-2 to Manchester United on Saturday.

Conte, though, says there is little point comparing his side with the champions elect.

"The table is showing that now there's a great gap with Manchester City," he said. "To speak about the gap between us and Manchester City now is not right.

"The most important thing for us is to focus on ourselves and finish the season in the best possible way. That must be our focus. Then we arrive in the right moment to think about the way we can work to reduce this gap.

"We have to try to do our best in every game. We have to look forward but at the same time, we have to look behind [at Arsenal in sixth]. The only thing we can do is to try to do everything in every game, to show great desire, to show great pride to finish the season in the best position in the table."

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