Chelsea V Leicester at Stamford Bridge : Match Preview

14 October 2016
Chelsea V Leicester - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Antonio Conte can only smile at Chelsea sacking rumours

Antonio Conte has laughed off speculation he was about to be sacked as Chelsea head coach.

Within minutes of Chelsea announcing a kit deal with Nike that is set to net the club B#900million over the next 15 years, the focus on Thursday turned to Italian Conte.

A sustained and heavy mid-afternoon gamble was reported on the former Italy and Juventus boss becoming the next Premier League manager to be ousted from his position.

He went from being an outsider in the market to an odds-on favourite with some bookmakers, while others refused to take any more money.

"I take this with a smile," Conte said.

"I'm trying to find who put the money (on)."

The club owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich recruited Conte on a three-year contract that began in July, following his Italy team's Euro 2016 quarter-final penalty shoot-out loss to Germany.

Chelsea have experienced a mixed start to Conte's first season in English football, suffering painful early defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal.

With 13 points from seven games they stand seventh in the table and five points behind leaders Manchester City.

Two managers axed by Abramovich visit Stamford Bridge in the next two games: Claudio Ranieri with champions Leicester on Saturday and Jose Mourinho with Manchester United on October 23.

"Two great challenges for us," Conte added.

"But in this moment I think we must think of ourselves and not of the other teams."

Chelsea have a full week to prepare for the United match as they are not involved in European competition.

Midfielder N'Golo Kante opted out of the Champions League with Leicester in moving to the Blues.

"He brought great will to fight and he's a humble man, a humble player. I like him," Conte added.

"I like these type of players that put the team before himself."

Chelsea won their most recent game, a 2-0 win at Hull, when Conte deployed a back three.

John Terry is available again following an ankle injury and could come into the starting XI.

Brazil playmaker Willian is absent on compassionate leave following the death of his mother. Conte expressed his sadness for Willian.

Striker Diego Costa is one yellow card away from a suspension and a booking against Leicester would rule him out of the United clash.

Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri is trying to fine-tune his attacking trio of Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani.

Ranieri is conducting special training sessions with the three players in order to develop a better understanding between them.

The Italian has compared Vardy to a radio because of the incessant noise he makes and he wants them all on the same frequency.

Once they are all tuned in, the Foxes boss believes his front three can cause major problems for Premier League defences.

Ranieri said: "There is a very good link between the three and I think this is the strength of our future.

"In the training sessions I put the three together to manage better and better every situation. I believe in these three guys. There are special sessions, and also when we play matches they stay always together so they can link every time better, to get a better understanding."

Slimani, a B#30million signing from Sporting Lisbon in the summer, has already made an impact by scoring three goals in five appearances for Leicester - including the winner against Porto in the Champions League.

But Ranieri insists it is still a case of Slimani understanding his new team-mates, as it is for the rest of the Leicester squad to become familiar with his strengths and weaknesses.

"Slimani's impact was very good but now he has to improve more how we play, how we move," said Ranieri.

"I am speaking a lot with him, he is intelligent tactically. He has to understand the Premier League and then he will improve more and more.

"Other team-mates have to understand his movement too - he is very strong in the air and can hold the ball. It is important the others go around him to play and make the movement. All the opponents know if they leave space behind then Jamie can kill them.

"We have to surprise them and change something. We have to manage better this opportunity with Jamie, Slimani and Mahrez."

Ranieri hopes to have midfielder Danny Drinkwater fit and available at Stamford Bridge.

Drinkwater was not available for selection for England's recent World Cup qualifiers against Malta and Slovenia as he had a groin injury but he has since resumed training and will be assessed on Friday.

Nampalys Mendy has been absent since limping off during the goalless home draw with Arsenal on August 20 but it seems his ankle injury is likely to keep him on the sidelines for another week.

Chelsea Match Reports

UEFA Champions League Tue 20th February 19:45

Chelsea 1 - 1 Barcelona

Last game - Match Centre

Trending on the boards