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(Reuters) - Antonio Conte says Chelsea have exceeded expectations this season but the Italian manager is confident his side will use their experience to avoid succumbing to the pressure of being top of the Premier League table.
After a shaky start, Chelsea, who finished 10th last season, have gone on an astonishing 11-game winning streak in the league, which has seen them open up a six-point gap at the summit after 17 games.
"Not one person thought or forecast that Chelsea would stay top of the table, for many reasons," Conte told British media.
"I think we found the right balance. But now we are only two games away from halfway through the season. So, for this reason, we must have the right pressure. These players, in the past, have had the habit of staying top of the table.
"I don't trust the people when they say, 'There's pressure when you're top'. I prefer the pressure of being top of the table. We earned this position. Now it's important to keep it. It's not the first time for me or my players."
Chelsea will hope to extend their winning streak when they host 10th-placed Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge on Monday.
Reporting by Shravanth Vijayakumar in Bengaluru