Antonio Conte insists champions Chelsea are outsiders to retain Premier League crown

Antonio Conte insists his champion Chelsea side are outsiders to retain their crownGETTY

Antonio Conte insists his champion Chelsea side are outsiders to retain their crown

The Blues kick off their title defence against Burnley after a frustrating summer in the transfer market and the loss of key players like star man Eden Hazard to injury.

On top of that Conte has seen Nemanja Matic sold to rivals Manchester United and a host of promising youngsters sent out on loan.

And the stand-off with striker Diego Costa has been ramped up after his lawyer declared his intention to find “a legal mechanism” to engineer a switch to Atletico Madrid.

So no wonder Conte said yesterday: “It’s right not to put Chelsea to be a favourite.

“It was the same last season, not one person believed Chelsea would win the title.

“It was the same last season, not one person believed Chelsea would win the title”

Antonio Conte

“This season, in this moment, I agree with these people who think this.

“At the start of the season it’s simple to tell that in this league probably six top, top teams should fight for the title.

“Then you know very well that there are the surprises and in two last years with Leicester and Chelsea, I think two teams won the league and it was a great surprise.”

Pedro picked up an ankle injury in the Community Shield defeat against Arsenal and has joined Hazard and new boy Tiemoue Bakayoko in the treatment room, while Victor Moses is banned.

Conte admitted the problems are mounting but insisted he isn’t already making excuses for failure.

He added: “For sure, it won’t be easy in this part of the season but I don’t want to find any excuse for me, for my staff or for my players.

“We have to go to fight, try to win with these players.

“It’s not important who is injured. It’s important to do our best and that’s the most important thing.

“The other teams will try to put 120 per cent against us.

“I’m not looking for sympathy of any coaches for this situation. This is my message, the situation is clear.”

Conte used a number of youngsters on the bench at Wembley against Arsenal but warned it is a high-risk strategy in the league .

He said: “It’s difficult to judge young players only from training sessions.

“There are moments when you have to take risks because you haven’t got other possibilities. You have to cope with the young player.”

Lewis Baker became the latest fringe player to shipped out on loan yesterday when he joined Middlesbrough for the season.

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