LONDON (Reuters) - Chelsea coach Antonio Conte welcomed the pressure other clubs are trying to maintain on his runaway Premier League leaders and said he expected a battle until the season is over.
“I think this league it will be very tough until the end,” Conte told reporters after Chelsea’s 2-1 win at West Ham United on Monday restored a 10-point lead at the top.
The victory left Chelsea with a commanding advantage over second-placed Tottenham Hotspur with 11 games to go.
“I listen (to) the other coaches on the other teams and they trust (their players) to win and it is right to have this ambition,” Conte said. “It is important for us to know that they have this ambition, to keep this hunger, this will to fight.”
Goals either side of halftime by Eden Hazard and Diego Costa ensured Chelsea took all three points from the London derby but Conte was frustrated about West Ham’s late consolation goal.
The Italian also said he wanted his attacking players to be more clinical in front of goal.
Chelsea’s strong run of wins stands in a stark contrast with last season’s dismal performances when they finished in mid-table and lost the most successful manager in the west London club’s history, Jose Mourinho, along the way.
With no European competition this season, Chelsea have focused solely on their domestic ambitions and Conte said winning the FA Cup was another target for this year.
Chelsea’s next match is in the knockout competition at home to Manchester United, managed by Mourinho, on March 13.
West Ham manager Slaven Bilic said a shock slip-up was possible but he believed Chelsea were well on the way to winning the league title again.
“They are not going to become casual. They look very serious,” he said. “I can see them staying on top.”
Reporting by William Schomberg; Editing by Ken Ferris