Chelsea’s struggling stars should not look for an easy exit if they fail to qualify for the Champions League and instead take their share of the blame, Antonio Conte has said.
Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois are among those who could leave at the end of the season as they are chased by European heavyweights Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain respectively.
Chelsea currently sit fifth in the Premier League but are 10 points off Tottenham, and the west London club travel to Southampton on Saturday looking for only their fourth win in 2018.
Antonio Conte tells his players they will have to face the blame if they don’t meet their targets
As it stands, Conte is not putting any plans together for the summer amid the uncertainty over his future, but he believes his players should be sharing the responsibility with him.
‘If we don’t qualify for the Champions League, it means that we have to divide the fault, also with the players,’ Conte said.
‘If you are not able to take a qualification in the Champions League, then you must consider playing next season without Champions League and to stay here and fight for this club.
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‘I think we must be frustrated. Me, my staff, the players and the club, for this season. We must be frustrated. You start the season with great expectations. Instead, this season, we have struggled a lot. For many reasons, but the truth is we’ve been struggling.
‘I’m the coach of this team. I’m the first person to take my responsibility. But, for sure, I’m not alone. Now is not the right moment.
‘Now it is very difficult to talk about the future. Now I think we must be focused on the present to try to finish the season as strongly as possible. This must be our target.
‘Now it is not right to see forward because the present is very important for us – more important than the future.’
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Saturday is set to be a dress rehearsal for Chelsea ahead of their FA Cup semi-final clash with Southampton at Wembley in less than two weeks. That competition will represent their last chance of silverware this season.
Asked if his squad would owe it to the club to stay and get them back into Europe’s elite competition next year, Conte added: ‘This is not my job. Not my job. There is a club to speak about this situation, with me, with the players. I think this is a job for the club.
‘The only thing we can do now is try to finish in the best possible way this season. For sure, we made a lot of mistakes this season.
‘When I talk about a lot of mistakes, I involve me, my staff, the players and the club. We must reflect at the end of the season and understand where the mistakes were.’