(Reuters) - Chelsea manager Antonio Conte hates not being in the Champions League and has made it his mission to ensure the Premier League leaders consistently qualify for Europe’s elite competition.
“The Champions League, I think, must be an appointment for us every year. It must be (at) our house,” the former Juventus and Italy manager told British media.
After Chelsea won the 2014-15 league title under Jose Mourinho, a disastrous campaign last season saw the Portuguese manager lose his job and the side end the season in 10th place, missing out on European competition completely.
“We started our season trying to fight until the end to win the title and to be in the right position to go into next season’s Champions League. This was our target,” added the Italian, who joined Chelsea before the start of this season.
“It wasn’t easy to start the season and know that six strong teams fight for the title and the Champions League.”
Chelsea are seven points clear in the standings, with Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United all battling to claim the top four places that offer Champions League football for next season.
“Don’t forget, in this six teams, two won’t play in the Champions League next season. They have to go into the Europa League, which is a bit different,” the 47-year-old added.
“Now this league is very, very difficult. To win the title and also to find a place to play the Champions League is not easy.”
Chelsea visit 11th-placed West Ham United in the league on Monday before hosting Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter-final on Mar. 13.
Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru