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Antonio Conte: Chelsea can be champions this season

Conte ready for his first game as Chelsea manager
Conte ready for his first game as Chelsea manager

Antonio Conte insists he is not afraid to declare Chelsea's ability to fight for this season's Premier League title.

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho claimed on Friday that his rival managers were scared to make bold pledges that their sides can chase the league crown.

But when asked if he feared backing his Chelsea side for silverware in the wake of Mourinho's mind games, Conte replied: "No. I must be honest I think that other things scare me, not to win or lose in football.

"I think that in this league it's very tough, and I think that at the moment six, seven, eight teams can fight to win the title.

"And I'm sure Chelsea is a good team and we must work very hard to be in the six, seven teams that fight for the title."

Chelsea will open their Premier League account by hosting West Ham on Monday night, with former Italy boss Conte itching to get to grips with his new challenge at Stamford Bridge.

Conte expects Spain star Diego Costa to play a pivotal role at the Blues this term, but admitted he has challenged the striker to act as a focal-point forward and ditch his previous roving brief.

"Diego is a forward, and he knows that in my idea of football the forward must always be a point of reference for the team," said Conte.

"I don't like the forward to move around the pitch, I like the forward to stay there, because you are a forward, and your commitment is to score the goal, stay in the right position.

"You're a forward, not a midfielder, not a defender.

"Diego Costa is a great player, and I know that he's a fantastic finisher. And I think that Diego can improve still a lot.

"I try to improve all my players. I'm seeing a good attitude from Diego, to work, to improve in different situations.

"I think that Diego can give a lot to this team, and I'm sure that he'll have a good season.

"For me he's an important player, he had a fantastic season two years ago when Chelsea won the title.

"Last season for a while he didn't score, then he started to score, but I'm happy that Diego stays here and to work with us.

"I like the spirit of Diego, because he always shows a great passion. Me, I'm the same, I have great passion for football. He doesn't want to lose and I like this passion."