December 2, 2016 / 3:57 PM / 8 months ago

Chelsea players now taking responsibility, says Wilkins

Britain Football Soccer - Chelsea - Antonio Conte Press Conference - Stamford Bridge - 2/12/16 General view outside the stadium after the press conference Action Images via Reuters / Tony O'Brien Livepic

LONDON, Dec 2 (Reuters) - The Chelsea players have taken responsibility for their performances under the guidance of manager Antonio Conte, according to former captain Ray Wilkins.

Conte leads his rejuvenated team to third-placed Manchester City on Saturday as Chelsea look to cement their place at the top of the Premier League table. "It's about the individuals to be perfectly honest.

They've decided they're going to buck up a touch because last season they were very poor - and they needed to buck up," Wilkins told Reuters.

"I think they're showing this year that they are a quality outfit and a number of those players who didn't perform last year are actually putting their boots on and starting to play a bit."

City won both Premier League meetings 3-0 last season and Chelsea have lost six of their last eight games at the Etihad Stadium in all competitions but Wilkins believes his former team are showing champion credentials with their 3-4-3 formation.

"It's still very much the same group of players but it's a very different system in which they are playing and it seems to suit everybody down to the ground," said Wilkins, who made 170 appearances for Chelsea in the 1970s.

"I've watched Chelsea on numerous occasions this season and they look very, very impressive indeed but it'll be a massive test for them tomorrow at the Etihad," he added.

"They're coming up against a squad who are equally as good and equally as strong and powerful so I think it will be a tough task for Chelsea tomorrow but it'll be tough test for City, too."

Chelsea have the chance to record an eighth consecutive Premier League victory for the first time since 2010.

"I don't see Chelsea getting beaten on Saturday. If anything, with the counter-attacking possibilities they have, they could cause City a few problems," the former England midfielder said.

"If City keep piling on to them and Chelsea can keep them out, then I can see Chelsea breaking away."

Wilkins praised Conte for his handling of difficult selection issues, including captain John Terry dropping out of the side since recovering from an ankle injury.

"I believe that although Conte isn't picking the likes of John he's in constant dialogue with those players and I think that's very important," said Wilkins who was assistant Chelsea manager to Luiz Felipe Scolari and Carlo Ancelotti.

"When you treat the senior pros with the respect they merit and you explain what the situation is, I think the senior professional will accept that.

"You keep that dialogue going and you say, 'I really do need you if things go slightly wonky with injuries and we'll need you to come back etc'.

You make sure that all of the players are on board and on your side."

Editing by Ed Osmond

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