(Reuters) - Chelsea boss Antonio Conte believes Manchester City could dominate English football for a long time after Pep Guardiola’s side were crowned Premier League champions.
City won the league title last weekend with five games to go and boast a commanding 16-point lead over second-placed Manchester United.
“Manchester City is one club that can continue to dominate, to win, not only in England, but also to fight for the Champions League,” Conte told reporters ahead of Chelsea’s league trip to Burnley on Thursday.
“They have the possibility to do this. It is a very strong club, they have an important squad with great players and are a club that want to invest and improve. There are a lot of things that are right.”
Chelsea face an uphill task to qualify for next season’s Champions League as they trail fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur by eight points, even if Mauricio Pochettino’s side have played a game more.
Conte accepts the odds are stacked against his team but has urged his players to fight for a top-four spot until it’s mathematically impossible.
“We have to try until the end to reach this target,” the Italian manager added.
“If we want to be realistic with five games to go, it’s not simple to reduce the gap, but we must have the will to fight, the desire to take this target. Why not?
“We have an important game against Burnley, a really strong team having a fantastic season, and it won’t be easy to get three points.”
Conte also added that January signing Emerson Palmieri will make his first Premier League start for Chelsea at Burnley.
The 23-year-old left back has made two league appearances from the bench since joining the club from AS Roma for a reported fee of 17.6 million pounds ($25 million).
“Tomorrow Emerson will play... he’s ready in the physical and tactical aspect,” Conte said. “I don’t know if he is ready to play two (matches) in three days. For sure he will play against Burnley.”
Chelsea face Southampton in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.
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Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge