London (AFP) – Antonio Conte dodged questions over his Chelsea future ahead of Wednesday’s clash with Huddersfield, which could be his final home match at the helm of the deposed Premier League champions.
Speculation has been rife all season that Conte’s tenure will come to an end this summer after periods of public disgruntlement from the Italian.
Conte last summer signed an improved contract, but not an extension, to the three-year deal that expires in June 2019 after guiding Chelsea to the title in his first season as boss.
“My answer is always the same,” Conte said on Tuesday. “I’m very focused on the present, to do the job in the best way for the players and the fans.
“Our job is not simple, it’s not easy. But I’m totally focused on the present. The present is now to finish the season in the best possible way with my players. Also because I think our fans deserve this.”
Fifth-placed Chelsea, who play Manchester United in the FA Cup final later this month, are playing catch-up in the bid to qualify for the Champions League.
Conte’s side are two points behind Tottenham and three adrift of Liverpool with two games to play.
Spurs play Newcastle on Wednesday and Leicester on Sunday, both games at Wembley, and Liverpool play Brighton at Anfield on the final day.
Chelsea have won their past four league matches but Conte bemoaned the lateness of the run, which means even wins over relegation-threatened Huddersfield and Newcastle may not be enough for the Blues.
“The situation is not in our hands,” said the Chelsea boss. “Liverpool have to win the last game against Brighton and it’s the same for Tottenham. They have two games at home. The only way to put a bit of pressure is this, to get three points in every game.”
Alvaro Morata is in contention to face the Terriers after a minor injury ruled him out of Sunday’s win against Liverpool.
The Spain striker has had an indifferent first season in England. After starting well, he took until March 18 to score his first goal of 2018 and has three strikes in all this calendar year.
“This season was a difficult season, but not only for Morata,” said Conte, who declined to address speculation the striker could leave this summer.