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UEFA Champions League

Antonio Conte Admits Giving Up Chelsea Top Four Hunt Last Month

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has admitted that he had given up on the Blues’ Champions League qualification a month ago while warning Liverpool to prepare to face serious pressure this week for a top-four berth.

Conte’s side kept alive their hopes of sealing a place in Europe’s elite competition by beating the Reds 1-0 at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Liverpool are in third on 72 points, with Tottenham Hotspur on 71 and Chelsea 69. Both London teams have a game in hand on Wednesday.

With Jurgen Klopp’s side boasting a much better goal difference, they will clinch a Champions League berth with a win at home to Brighton and Hove Albion on the final day next Sunday.

And Conte said: “One month ago it was impossible to imagine that we’d arrive at the end for a place in the Champions League.

“Now there is the hope because we are getting three points in every game and our opponents are dropping points.

“But our future is not in our hands. We have to try to get three points to put pressure on the teams above us. We have to fight and show we are still alive.”

Chelsea’s next game is at home to Huddersfield Town on Wednesday before finishing at Newcastle United next Sunday.

And Conte was delighted with how his team kept 43-goal Mohamed Salah quiet at the weekend.

“We played as a team, not just one player against Salah,” he said. “He’s a really important player, but Firmino is a top player for me, so is Mane. They have scored 70 goals with these three players, and there is a reason for that.

“I repeat, you can see great work from Jurgen. They are a good team.

“We had to fight to win and keep Europe alive and our place in the Champions League. I don’t know if this will be enough at the end of the season, but we have to try.”

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