LONDON – Chelsea manager Antonio Conte believes his side must win every game they play if they are to stand any chance of reeling in runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City.
Champions Chelsea are nine points behind Pep Guardiola’s City ahead of Saturday’s trip to West Bromwich Albion, where Conte’s men secured the title in May.
“Manchester City are playing very well. If you want to try to catch them, you have to win every game,” Conte told his pre-match press conference at Stamford Bridge on Friday.
“If you want to try to fight for the title, it’s very important to win and not to drop points.”
Conte raised eyebrows by omitting David Luiz from his squad for fourth-placed Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Manchester United prior to the international break.
But while he was reluctant to explain that decision, he said the Brazil centre-back would be in contention for the trip to The Hawthorns.
“David Luiz is in the squad,” Conte said.
“When it’s a technical decision, every single player has to react well and to accept my decision.”
Andreas Christensen deputised for Luiz against United, and Conte praised the 21-year-old Denmark international, who spent the last two seasons on loan at Borussia Moenchengladbach.
“Christensen is showing himself to be an important player for us,” said the Italian. “He’s playing with great maturity.”
An ankle injury means there will be no triumphant return to The Hawthorns for Michy Batshuayi, whose late tap-in gave Chelsea the title on their last visit.
Wing-back Victor Moses is about a week away from returning to training as he continues his recovery from a hamstring injury.
But centre-back Gary Cahill is available after overcoming a back problem, and Danny Drinkwater has been passed fit following a calf complaint.
Drinkwater received criticism after England manager Gareth Southgate revealed he had turned down a call-up to the national squad, but Conte defended the former Leicester City midfielder.
“He was very honest,” Conte said. “The player was clear and intelligent. I don’t understand why we always have to try (to find) a problem.”