Chelsea boss Antonio Conte says last season’s dismal defence of their Premier League title makes it difficult to set targets for 2016-17.
The reigning champions could only muster a 10th-placed finish as they surrendered their top-flight crown to Leicester City, while they also failed to win a trophy or qualify for Europe.
Conte got his first Premier League campaign off to a positive start with a 2-1 win over West Ham on Monday and midfielder Oscar has claimed that a lack of European commitments could help them to fight for the title once more.
But the former Juventus and Italy boss is wary of declaring any clear objectives for the season given the problems of last term.
“It’s difficult to put a target in now for the squad. We’re starting after a bad season. If you look at the starting XI or over the last year, it’s the same,” he said.
“A team like Chelsea must fight for the title, or until the end of the season. But we know also that we’ve arrived after not so good a season.
“I must be honest – we are working to improve, but the real target of this squad now is very difficult to explain. We need more time to pass, go game by game.
“I congratulated my players because I think we played a good game against West Ham. There was a great will to win. I like this a lot. We have to maintain this mentality.”
Conte’s first away match in the Premier League pits him against Walter Mazzarri, who took charge of Watford in July after Quique Sanchez Flores left for Espanyol.
And the 47-year-old is eager to send out “the right message” at Vicarage Road against his old Serie A adversary, with whom he enjoyed a heated rivalry during Mazzarri’s spells in charge of Napoli and Inter.
“It will be a good game. We know that it’s not an easy game because Watford are a solid team with good players, two very strong strikers who play together very well,” said Conte.
“It’s a dangerous game for us. We have to send the right message. It’s important to face this game with the right intensity and concentration.
“It’s a great challenge for him also. He’s very focused on this experience. When we were in Italy and we fought for the title, Juventus against Napoli, everyone thinks about their club. But I have great respect for him and his work. He’s a good manager.”
Conte confirmed he has no injury concerns ahead of Saturday’s encounter, as he prepares to face a Watford side with whom Chelsea drew twice last season.
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