(Reuters) - Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte defended his record over the past two seasons and said on Friday that he had succeeded in building a platform for success at the London club.
The Italian took over after a season in which Chelsea finished 10th and led the team to the Premier League title in his first campaign in charge.
That success has not been repeated in the current campaign and though Chelsea have reached the FA Cup final, the club is likely to miss out on a place in the top four in their final league match of the season at Newcastle United on Sunday.
“For sure, we worked two years and worked very hard to try to build something, to create a base,” Conte told a news conference. “I think we did this.
“I’m the last person to judge the moment of the club. My task is to work, to do my job in the best possible way, and to work very hard with this team, with these players for the fans. Other people will judge our position.”
Fifth-placed Chelsea must beat Newcastle and hope Liverpool lose to Brighton and Hove Albion to secure Champions League football, but Conte said failing to finish in the top four was always a risk given the competition in England.
“Don’t forget two years ago, Chelsea ended the season 10th and not in the FA Cup final, not in the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup, and they were eliminated in the last 16 against PSG in the Champions League. It can happen,” he added.
“But last season after a 10th place we won the league. It was difficult. We worked very hard, but we won it... Now, probably, you can finish fifth and start with a bit of an advantage compared to when you finish 10th.”
Conte’s future is under a cloud given the team’s failure to defend their title. British media have also reported that he has a strained relationship with members of the club’s hierarchy. The Italian, however, said he paid no attention to speculation.
“I always said to you, my only thought is to do my job in the best possible way. To work very hard with my players,” he added.
“This is my only worry. Since the start of the first game, I think... the time I start listening to the speculation about me, this is the moment I start to be worried.”
Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis