Any suggestion that Chelsea might be set to sack head coach Antonio Conte is “utter nonsense,” a club source has said.
A move by several leading UK bookmakers to suspend betting on Conte losing his job earlier on Thursday prompted speculation that the Italian could be leaving Stamford Bridge, just three months after being hired by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich to revive the club’s fortunes.
Abramovich was a regular visitor to Cobham training centre in the week after damaging Premier League defeats against top-four rivals Liverpool and Arsenal, in order to observe training and discuss the team’s issues with Conte over a series of lunches.
But a source told ESPN FC that the intention behind the Russian’s presence was to support rather than supervise his head coach, and that Chelsea’s owner understands that the team’s problems will take time to solve after a summer in which the club’s hierarchy failed to secure many of Conte’s top transfer targets.
Chelsea responded on the pitch by beating Hull City 2-0 at the KC Stadium, with Conte’s shift to a 3-4-3 formation rewarded with only the team’s second clean sheet of the season. The result means that the Blues head into Saturday’s clash with Leicester City seventh in the Premier League table.
Conte presided over first-team training at Stamford Bridge on Thursday in preparation for the match, and a media conference with the Chelsea head coach to preview the fixture has been scheduled for 1 p.m. on Friday at Cobham.
Willian is highly unlikely to be available to face the Premier League champions after being granted permission to remain in Brazil to attend the funeral of his mother, who passed away on Wednesday after a long battle with cancer.