Antonio Conte admits it might not be Chelsea's year after third league defeat and second in a row

Ed Malyon
Antonio Conte admits it might not be Chelsea's year after third league defeat and second in a row

Antonio Conte has warned that Chelsea may struggle this season after his side’s title challenge was derailed at Crystal Palace.

The Blues were deservedly beaten at Selhurst Park in a game where the lack of depth in the champions’ squad was laid bare.

That isn’t something that will be lost on the disappointed Conte, who spent much of the summer lobbying for further reinforcements but still hopes that Alvaro Morata will be fit for Wednesday’s visit of Roma.

And as Manchester City opened up a nine-point lead at the top of the Premier League, Conte warned that with a thinner squad the expectations of his team can’t be the same as last year.

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“It is not one defeat but two in a row and for sure this is a not a positive moment for many reasons. We are playing without important players and every game we have a new injury. Today Moses's injury is another big loss for us. A defeat is always a defeat… this season will be very difficult for us. For this reason we have to put 150% in. 100% won't be enough.

“Last season is the past. Now it is another squad, different players, and for this reason if we compare last season we didn't play Europa League or Champions League. This season we are facing four competitions and we are having a few problems doing this. When you have a few injuries, you are in trouble.”

And Chelsea’s title challenge is in trouble. After being outplayed by Manchester City things had already begun to look difficult but defeat at Crystal Palace is altogether more damaging.

The last time Conte lost two consecutive league games it pushed him into the major change that virtually won them the title last season - switching to a 3-4-3 - but Chelsea don’t have the time to take such drastic action with hours on the training field increasingly scarce in a packed schedule.

Should Alvaro Morata return in midweek that solves one problem that emerged during the defeat at Selhurst Park, namely Michy Batshuayi.

While the Belgian has looked good against lower-league opposition and has had impact as a substitute, he was a complete non-factor against Crystal Palace. So poor, in fact, that even when chasing a lead Conte decided to withdraw Batshuayi and try to salvage a draw with no recognised centre-forward on the field.

The Italian was reluctant to single out his only fit striker for criticism, however.

“I think the performance of the whole team was bad, not one player or two players, but all the players today. Our performance was bad. The performance of the whole team was bad. Not one or two players. Why do we have to speak about Batshuayi and not other players?

“It is normal to be angry after a bad performance, but every player had a bad performance.”

Conte can no doubt improve the mood around the club with a win over Roma but increasingly it is looking as if the Champions League, not the Premier League, will be their best chance of success this season.

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