March 2, 2018 / 3:53 PM / 4 months ago

Soccer: Chelsea's Conte fears Man City will be stronger next season

(Reuters) - Manchester City’s financial might and manager Pep Guardiola’s tactical nous will ensure they become an even stronger team next season, Chelsea boss Antonio Conte said ahead of Sunday’s clash against the runaway Premier League leaders.

Soccer Football - Premier League - Manchester United vs Chelsea - Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - February 25, 2018 Chelsea manager Antonio Conte REUTERS/Andrew Yates

Guardiola’s side have dominated in the current campaign and are 16 points ahead of second-placed Manchester United and 22 points ahead of defending champions Chelsea as they close in on their third league title in seven years.

Asked if City would be a tougher prospect next season, Conte said: “For sure. They have the possibility to spend money and improve the quality of the starting XI and the squad.

“I always say other teams have to pay great attention to City... it’s very difficult to find a weakness in this team.”

Conte, who has been the subject of persistent British media reports that he will leave the club after publicly criticising their transfer policy this season, heaped more praise on City and their ability to land their targets.

“When you work well, and there’s great feeling between the manager and the club, you can work the way you want... when you link these two situations - a good manager and money to spend in the transfer market - this is the result.”

City come into the match on the back of a 3-0 league victory over Arsenal on Thursday. They beat the London side by the same scoreline in the League Cup final last weekend to hand Guardiola his first trophy at the club.

Chelsea are fifth in the table and chasing a top-four finish to ensure qualification to next season’s Champions League. They suffered a setback in their quest after a 2-1 defeat by United in their last league outing.

Asked if a top-four finish was the height of Chelsea’s ambition, Conte replied: “This is not a question for me. The club has to show the ambition, not the coach. The coach has to work hard every day.”

Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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