No Champions League an opportunity for Chelsea - Conte

Chelsea's lack of Champions League football will boost their Premier League challenge, manager Antonio Conte believes.

Antonio Conte believes failing to qualify for the Champions League will give Chelsea an advantage in the Premier League this season.

Chelsea finished 10th in the Premier League last year, but Conte says the lack of European football at Stamford Bridge will give him more time to work with his players.

The ex-Italy boss noted that in his first year at Juventus, the Serie A side were not competing in Europe either and he subsequently led them to the league title.

"Chelsea aren't involved [in the Champions League] this season but these things can happen to big teams," Conte told the Evening Standard. 

"In my first season in charge of Juventus, they were in the same position. I took over after they had finished seventh the season before.

"Obviously we didn't play in the Champions League or the Europa League and our energy was only focused on the championship. We were able to take advantage of that and we won the title. I hope to do the same with Chelsea.

"Not playing in the Champions League could be an opportunity because I will be able to work more with my players.

"If you ask me if I prefer this situation, I don't because Chelsea must be in this competition. You do feel like you're missing something when you're not involved in the Champions League. It is a special competition and you want to play in it every year. 

"But because we are not, I will have a whole week to train with my players and that gives me a chance to work with them more compared to Chelsea managers in previous seasons."

Conte is expecting a "battle" for Champions League qualification this season, with Manchester United also set to challenge for a place in the top four under their new manager Jose Mourinho after missing out last season.

"It is going to be some battle to finish in the top four next season between all the managers and some will lose out," said Conte. "The players know this, too.

"This club must play in the competition because for a club like Chelsea, the Champions League is their home. It’s important to get back into it.

"This won't be easy because in England there are seven or eight teams who are very tough and are ready to fight for the title. But that means they are also all fighting for the top four.

"Yet we are Chelsea. We have a great team and we must find our way back quickly to compete for the title or at least a top-four place. We are working very hard to prepare and we want to try to cancel the bad season of last year."