Antonio Conte last night admitted that there is a real danger Chelsea will be without Champions League football next season following their humiliating home defeat against Bournemouth.
Conte’s toothless side were picked apart in 16 staggering second-half minutes as Callum Wilson, Junior Stanislas and former Blues defender Nathan Ake all scored to stun the Premier League champions.
The remarkable 3-0 defeat saw the Blues drop to fourth – behind Liverpool on goal difference – and just two points clear of rivals Tottenham following their comprehensive win against Manchester United.
“We must be worried [about finishing in the top four],” Conte said. “It will not be easy. I am repeating what I have said since the start of the season.
“We have to fight. We must be prepared to fight and we must be ready. I think the players are starting to understand that this season we are going to struggle for a position in the Champions League.
“If we want only to dream and not see the reality, in this case I could tell you we can fight to win the title this season. But it is important to look at the reality and to know that it will be a great success to reach a place in the Champions League.”
Olivier Giroud completed his 18-month move from Arsenal earlier on Wednesday, but despite taking his seat behind the Chelsea dugout, the France international was unavailable.
And following Michy Batshuayi’s deadline-day loan switch to Borussia Dortmund, and the absence of the injured Alvaro Morata, Conte was left without a recognised centre-forward.
Eden Hazard was called upon to lead the line, but the Blues failed to create any clear-cut chances, and Bournemouth – who until Wednesday evening had never scored three on the road against a side from the Premier League’s so-called ‘top six’ – were good value for their emphatic win.
“I think about the pressure and it is normal for a coach and manager,” Conte added. “It is normal if you are Chelsea’s coach.
“We are doing everything and giving 120 per cent, and I am approaching this squad at their maximum level, but if someone does not agree that I am here then you have to accept every situation. I am relaxed about this because I know I am doing a great job.”