West Ham prepared to take advantage if Chelsea slip up – Slaven Bilic
Slaven Bilic insists the title race is not over as West Ham prepare to attempt to slow down Chelsea’s charge.
The Blues head to the London Stadium on Monday night well clear of the chasing pack and looking near-certainties to reclaim the Premier League crown.
But Hammers boss Bilic believes Antonio Conte’s men can still be caught in the same way that his side, who look comfortable in mid-table, cannot feel entirely safe from relegation.
“It is still very open, there are many, many points available,” said Bilic.
“Like the clubs below us. Let’s say we are in the position of Chelsea, or even better, regarding the clubs in the relegation zone.
“We are not afraid of our position, but you know that you need points to stay up and improve.
“Those teams who are down there, like Sunderland, Hull, they are hoping and planning to get the points. They know if they get the points they have a chance.
“It is the same with Chelsea and the five teams chasing them. They still think they have a chance to catch Chelsea if Chelsea slip, and they can slip in every game.”
Conte meanwhile has played down reports of a summer exit from Stamford Bridge, but admitted he is open to different experiences later in his career.
“In my mind, there is the will to find different experiences in different countries,” said Conte. “I think it’s fantastic to find these experiences. When I was a footballer, I played only for two teams: Lecce and Juventus.
“But, honestly, in my career I wanted to go and play in different countries.
“Now I am having this great experience in England, in an amazing league.
“For me, this is great. And I hope to live this experience with my family next season.”
The other challenge is that Conte went from managing his country at Euro 2016 to immediately taking up his post at Chelsea, so there was no time for respite.
“This is my first season away, in a new country, with a new language and new habits, and it’s totally different from my past,” he added.
“I started two days after finishing the Euros with Italy, and to arrive at a club, with new players, a new club, to bring your ideas, your philosophy and to change something in the habits of my players, it’s not easy.
“But now, after seven months, I can tell I’m very happy of my experiences so far with Chelsea, to have this relationship with the club, with my players. I’m sure we can improve a lot in the future.”
Chelsea won the 2014-15 title but finished 10th last season.
Conte has revived the team to take a commanding lead at the summit.
Individuals have also benefited, particularly Victor Moses who on Wednesday signed a contract extension until 2021.
The Nigeria international joined Chelsea from Wigan in August 2012 and has had loan spells at Liverpool, Stoke and last season at West Ham.
But Conte decided on the pre-season trip to North America that Moses should stay in the first-team squad and then converted him from a winger to right wing-back in a 3-4-3 formation which has seen Chelsea win 20 of their last 24 games in all competitions.
“I saw his potential quickly. I knew (of) him, but to see him live is very important to judge a player,” Conte added.
“He showed me great commitment to understand, to study the new role, above all in defensive situations.
“Now we have a complete player, offensively and defensively.”