Antonio Conte will not be sacked as Chelsea manager in the short term at least after being granted a stay of execution by Roman Abramovich, according to reports on Tuesday.
Conte’s future with the troubled Premier League champions was cast into doubt on Monday after a dismal 4-1 Premier League defeat by Watford.
Fourth-placed Chelsea have 50 points, languishing 19 points behind leaders Manchester City after a turbulent campaign marred by Conte’s squabble with his club’s hierarchy over their transfer policy.
Blues owner Abramovich has never been shy about wielding the axe when his managers underperform and it was suggested the debacle at Vicarage Road, coming hot on the heels of a wretched 0-3 loss to Bournemouth at home, could prompt Conte’s dismissal.
But widespread reports in the British media on Tuesday claimed former Juventus and Italy manager Conte is now expected to remain in charge for Monday’s home game against West Brom.
Former Barcelona boss Luis Enrique is among the big names who have been linked with the Chelsea job, but Conte is also said to be refusing to contemplate resigning after less than two years in charge at Stamford Bridge.
The Italian, who still has 18 months of his contract to run, retains the backing of his players, with the likes of Gary Cahill, Thibaut Courtois, N’Golo Kante and Cesar Azpilicueta offering public shows of support.
BUCK STOPS WITH THE TEAM
The players have to take responsibility. The manager has done an absolutely unbelievable job. This is the worst I’ve felt for quite a while… We just need to keep strong.
GARY CAHILL, Chelsea captain, admits the players should be taking the flak for their shocking run of form and not manager Antonio Conte.
“Whatever is decided, the players have to take responsibility. The manager has done an absolutely unbelievable job,” Cahill told the London Evening Standard.
“This is the worst I’ve felt for quite a while. Performance-wise, I didn’t recognise us or myself.
“It was abysmal. It hurts a lot when you come off after a performance like that.
“We just need to keep strong. I’ve been here before at this club – it’s about staying calm.”
Goalkeeper Courtois has provided a boost for Conte by saying he is ready to extend his contract despite the fact that his heart is in Madrid for personal reasons.
Since rejoining Chelsea in 2014 after three seasons on loan at Atletico Madrid, he has frequently been linked to Real Madrid, but the Belgium international said negotiations over a new deal were imminent and, all being well, he will put pen to paper.
“We agreed to meet again in February because the club had more urgent issues to deal with in January. There’s no rush, I am under contract until 2019. Normally, there’s no problem and I will extend,” he told Belgian publication Sport Foot Magazine.
“I am happy here and I can see we’re heading in the right direction, looking to win many more titles.
“The signs are positive. Their desire to also tie Eden Hazard down reassures me too,” he added, referring to his Belgium team-mate.
The 25-year-old has two young children from a previous relationship who live in Madrid and he regularly visits the Spanish capital.
“My heart is in Madrid; it’s logical and understandable. One day, I’ll return to Madrid. I love Spain, I loved that city, I spent three wonderful years there,” he said.
“The family aspect is priceless. But I repeat, for the moment, I’m busy talking to Chelsea to extend.”