(Reuters) – Chelsea manager Antonio Conte believes the club’s fortunes this season could be decided by whether they acquire significant reinforcements in the January transfer window.
The defending Premier League champions have struggled to cope with the added demands of playing in the Champions League, despite signing six players at the start of the campaign.
Third-placed Chelsea have fallen 16 points behind league leaders Manchester City but could still lift a trophy having reached the 1ast-16 of Europe’s elite club competition and the League Cup semi-finals.
“I am very happy to stay here and to work with these players but I think the transfer window could be important if we are able to find the right players,” Conte told a news conference on Friday.
“Otherwise we continue to work with these players. I am very happy to work with them and for sure the club is trying to do its best in the transfer market to improve the squad and our numerical aspect.
“I’m a coach, I have to work with my players and my task is on the pitch. The transfer market is for the club and they must decide if they want to improve my squad.”
Conte also dismissed speculation surrounding the future of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and winger Eden Hazard at the club, saying the two players are key to the club’s ambitions of collecting more major trophies in the future.
“It will be very important to continue with these types of players especially for your ambition to try to compete for something important,” the Italian manager added.
“It is important to try and improve your team, to strengthen and not to sell the best players.”
Conte also said that Chelsea have no fresh injury concerns ahead of Saturday’s league fixture against Stoke City, with the manager hoping to have defender David Luiz and midfielder Charly Musonda available for next weekend’s FA Cup tie at Norwich City.
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)