Antonio Conte says ‘don’t blame just me for dismal title defence’

Antonio Conte insists he is not solely to blame for Chelsea’s dismal title defence.

And he told any player thinking of jumping ship if they miss out on the top four that they have a responsibility to stick around and get the club back into the Champions League.

Blues’ top-four hopes are all but over after falling 10 points behind fourth-placed Spurs.

Chelsea have just the FA Cup – where they face today’s league opponents Southampton in the semis next Sunday – left to salvage something from their season.

Finishing outside the top four could have implications for the Blues’ chances of securing the long-term futures of the likes of Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois.

But Conte said: “If we don’t qualify for the Champions League it means that we have to divide the fault with the players.

“This is not the first time. Two years ago the same happened at Chelsea. I didn’t see many players leaving then. We made a lot of mistakes this season – me, my staff, the players and the club.

“Whether we win or lose, we must be ready to share the responsibility.”

Chelsea started 2018 in second place but have won just three league games since. But Conte insists his players will not take their foot off the gas.

He said: “There are six games to go and we have an FA Cup semi-final. We must finish the season as strongly as possible.”

Chelsea have made an official complaint to UEFA after claims their fans were struck by baton-wielding stewards and police at their Champions League tie in Barcelona.

Having received an “unprecedented response” from supporters, the club have chosen to take their case to UEFA.

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