ANTONIO CONTE will spend the next week urging Chelsea’s top brass to spend big… or risk a season without silverware.
The Blues boss has already all but given up on retaining the title after Saturday’s goalless draw at Goodison left them 16 points behind champs-in-all-but-name Manchester City.
Yet a Champions League last-16 showdown with Barcelona means they will need all hands to the pump.
Throw in an FA Cup third round trip to Norwich that is not exactly a gimme, plus a two-legged Carabao Cup semi-final against Arsenal, and their squad really does begin to look a little threadbare.
Last summer Conte missed out on Romelu Lukaku before signing Alvaro Morata instead.
And Danny Drinkwater and Timoue Bakayoko have both fallen short of replacing Nemanja Matic.
Doubts over the Italian’s own Stamford Bridge future muddied the waters further — yet now he is ready to urge the board to move swiftly and strengthen sharpish.
Bayer Leverkusen winger Leon Bailey Butler is a top target, along with Monaco’s Thomas Lemar and Ross Barkley, the Everton star he agonisingly failed to land last time around.
After seeing Chelsea’s fallen heroes miss out on a win despite dominating at Everton, Conte — whose side face Brighton today — did his best to keep a lid on his true feelings.
But there was no doubting he fears the worst if the numbers do not increase — and the Italian hinted at that fact as he surveyed the months ahead.
Conte admitted: “It is not the right time now to talk about who we will sign and I don’t want to have this conversation in public.
“I am very happy to work with my players, and if then if the squad is big enough to play all these games in all competitions, only time will tell.
“I think this consideration must be done with the club. I must say it to them in the right moment, in the right place.
“I will give my opinion when I speak with the club, I will tell them.
"But in the end the club has always the last word – like in the summer, like last season, and it will be the same in January. Then we will divide the responsibility with me and with the club…we will do it together.
“We have to try to work with the squad we have. We are fighting for the best position in the league, for the Champions League and the Carabao Cup. We will see.”
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