(Reuters) - Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has played down talk of his team being favourites to win the Premier League title as premature and warned his players to stay focused when they host West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.
Chelsea are on a nine-game winning streak in the league and beat Manchester City 3-1 away last weekend, but Conte said he would only judge his team’s prospects later in the season.
“It’s difficult to accept this (being favourites) because I think we played only 14 games, we must finish the first part of the season and then we still have the second part,” the Italian told a news conference on Friday.
”We started as underdogs this season but it’s normal when you are playing good football and winning games. It’s important after this win we don’t lose our hunger.
“Sunday is the type of game we will find difficult if we don’t have the same focus as in previous matches. We’ve worked very well this week and I‘m waiting on a good performance from my players.”
Midfielder Nemanja Matic is available after missing the trip to City and Conte is pleased with options after Cesc Fabregas impressed in a rare start.
“Cesc played a good game against City and took his opportunity,” Conte said.
”Now for the next game I have a choice of four midfielders – (N‘golo) Kante, Matic, Fabregas and (Nathaniel) Chalobah - and I have to take the best decision for the team.
“It’s very important that we have good competition. If I have to put out the same line-up it’s not good.”
Brazilian midfielder Oscar has been ruled out of the game against seventh-placed West Brom due to illness and club captain John Terry is also unavailable.
Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond