Antonio Conte believes he has improved Chelsea

Antonio Conte has defended his record as Chelsea head coach, reminding critics that when he arrived the club was in a worse position

Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte believes the club is in a better state than when he took charge in 2016.

Conte guided a team that had finished 10th the previous season to a Premier League title in his debut campaign, but has struggled to replicate that performance this time around.

Chelsea’s hopes of Champions League qualification faded with a 1-1 draw against Huddersfield on Wednesday and the Blues now require other results to go their way on Sunday to have any chance of making the top four.

“We’ve worked for two years and we’ve worked very hard to try to build something, to create a base – I think we did this,” said Conte, despite being hesitant to judge his own work.

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“Last season, after a 10th place we won [the title]. It was difficult, we worked very hard and we won, after a 10th place.

“Now you can finish fifth, you start with a bit of an advantage on when you finished tenth.”

Much of the doubt over Conte’s future has been fuelled by an apparent breakdown between manager and boardroom over transfer policy.

Following Chelsea’s title win, Conte was eager to reinforce his squad, citing the additional challenge of Champions League football as a key factor.

His fears look likely to be realised on Sunday, with Chelsea set to miss out on a top-four place, unless they win at Newcastle, and Brighton defeat Liverpool at Anfield.

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Regardless of the outcome, Conte believes missing out on the Champions League is a scenario all of England’s top teams must be prepared for.

“You must know there is this possibility because you play in a strong league,” Conte said.

“You have to prepare because there are six top teams at the start of the season ready to fight for a place in the Champions League.

“It can happen. In the past it happened. Don’t forget two years ago Chelsea ended the season 10th and not in the final of the FA Cup, not in the semi-final of Carabao Cup.”