Antonio Conte is not convinced that missing out on Champions League football will hinder Chelsea next season, the coach offering a reminder they won the title in 2016-17 after finishing 10th.
Chelsea go into their final match of the Premier League campaign two points adrift of fourth-placed Liverpool in the final Champions League qualification spot, meaning they are in danger of missing out.
Liverpool host Brighton and Hove Albion, while Chelsea travel to Newcastle United as the English top flight draws to a close on Sunday.
The Reds also have the advantage of a goal difference which is 15 better than Chelsea’s, essentially requiring Jurgen Klopp’s men to lose for their rivals to stand a chance.
But Conte suggested a top-four spot is not quite as important as some claim, particularly from a recruitment perspective.
“If you remember, last season after [finishing] 10th place, we won [the Premier League],” Conte told reporters at his pre-match news conference on Friday.
“It was different, but we worked hard and won. Now probably we can finish fifth thinking you have an advantage than [if you were] finishing tenth.
“I think we must be focused on this season and then it will be the right moment for the people to understand the situation and find the best solution in the best possible way.
“You must know there is this possibility [of not finishing in the top four]. You play in [a] strong league.
“You have to prepare in right way. Six top teams at the start of season are ready to fight for places in the Champions League.
“It [missing out on Champions League football] can happen. In the past it has happened the same.
“Don’t forget two years ago they finish the season tenth, not in any finals and were eliminated in the last 16 [of the Champions League] against Paris Saint-Germain – it can happen.”
Chelsea’s woes this season have led to Conte being strongly tipped to leave the club, but he insists their struggles have not impacted his opinion of English football negatively.
“[It’s been] a fantastic experience for me,” Conte said. “No, [it hasn’t put him off English football] absolutely not. Why?
“This is the best league in the world and to compete with so many teams and clubs that are very strong, it is always a great chance that you have.
“I am very happy for last season and this season and don’t forget, if you’re clever, you learn and you continue to learn and improve yourself and try to be better in the future.”
One boost for Conte ahead of the trip to Newcastle is the return of Thibaut Courtois to selection contention after recovering from a back injury.
“Today [Friday] Courtois trained. He will be in contention for Newcastle,” Conte said.