Antonio Conte has challenged his Chelsea players to make the Champions League their “home” again in the coming years after securing their place in next season’s competition.
A 3-0 win over Everton at Goodison Park last Sunday ensured a top-four finish for the Blues, fulfilling what Conte described as the “first target” for the club at the beginning of the Premier League campaign with four matches to spare.
The immediate priority for Chelsea now is to acquire the six more points needed to be confirmed as champions but, looking further ahead, Conte stressed the important of the club re-establishing itself on the European stage after the first season without Champions League football in the Roman Abramovich era.
“Next season we play the Champions League, and it’s great for us,” Conte said. “For a team like Chelsea the Champions League must be home, and [we have] to try and play in it every season.
“It won’t be easy in England, because I think in this league you have six very strong teams, very strong. It won’t be easy, in the present and the future, to play the Champions League.
“But for sure now it’s important to finish this season and then find the right solution, to prepare our team to face next season.”
Conte’s former club Juventus stand on the brink of a second Champions League final appearance in three years after a convincing 2-0 away victory over Monaco in the first leg of their semifinal tie on Wednesday, and the Chelsea boss has taken pride in their progress under successor Massimiliano Allegri.
“Juventus are an Italian team, so I’m very proud about this,” he added. “I wish the best for them. It’s important also for all Italian football, this achievement.”
Conte is set to become the fourth Italian manager to lift the Premier League trophy since 2010, following in the footsteps of Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea, Roberto Mancini with Manchester City and Claudio Ranieri’s fairytale triumph with Leicester City last season.
Asked why he felt Italian managers have fared so well in England, Conte replied: “Honestly, I don’t know. Every coach is different.
“For sure, in England, I looked at the past and saw many Italian managers won the title in England. I think it’s great for us.
“Last season I supported a lot Claudio Ranieri to win the title. In Italy we celebrated this win in a great way. I think Claudio deserved this for his career. I think it’s right to have joy if an Italian manager wins the title in England, but also for example with Carlo Ancelotti in Germany. We have another coach who I know very well, Massimo Carerra, who is winning in Russia with Spartak Moscow.
Chelsea welcome almost relegated Boro to Stanford Bridge on Monday night football in a penultimate tie that will confirm the Blues as Champions of the English title for the fifth time in a decade. Tottenham slipped out of the title race when they lost 1-0 to Westham last Friday at the Olympic Stadium in London.