AFC Bournemouth V Chelsea at Vitality Stadium : Match Preview

07 April 2017

Antonio Conte insists title race wide open ahead of Chelsea trip to Bournemouth

Head coach Antonio Conte maintains the title race is not done and dusted ahead of his side's trip to Bournemouth on Saturday.

The 47-year-old former has impressed in his first season in England, which could yet end with a Premier League and FA Cup double.

The Blues have a seven-point lead over second-placed Tottenham entering this weekend's fixtures, with Conte targeting six wins from the remaining eight games to be mathematically certain of the title.

Conte insisted that while Chelsea and Spurs are the main contenders, the title race is wide open. Liverpool are third, 12 points adrift of Chelsea and five behind Spurs having played a game more.

He added: "This race is open. I think now I can see two teams, Chelsea and Tottenham, in this race. But anything can happen because there are 24 points (to play for) and other rivals can go in this race."

Chelsea go to the Vitality Stadium at the end of week which saw them respond from the surprise loss to Crystal Palace with victory over Manchester City on Wednesday.

Victor Moses missed the last two matches but is in contention following a toe injury.

The 5.30pm kick-off means the Blues will know the result of Tottenham's match with Watford, which begins at 1230BST.

"I don't think it's an advantage," Conte said.

"There's always pressure. If they win, if they lose, if they draw. It's the same.

"It's very important for us to look at ourselves and not the others. Tottenham's result is important, but our results are the most important things.

"Now it's important to be focused for this season. This season is very difficult.

"We want to finish very good and a good season to become a great season for us."

Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe has challenged his players to produce another maximum-level when the Premier League leaders visit.

The Cherries head into Saturday's game on the back of a five-match unbeaten run which has seen them pick up points at Old Trafford and then Liverpool, where Josh King's late strike secured a 2-2 draw on Wednesday night.

"We are feeling good and confident at the moment," Howe said.

"Our home form has been very good, we have won our last two here and performed well away in the last two as well, against Southampton and Liverpool, which were really big points for us.

"If we can continue that momentum we have a chance."

Chelsea recalled Dutch defender Nathan Ake early from his season loan at Bournemouth when he returned to Stamford Bridge in January.

The 22-year-old, though, has yet to feature in the Premier League again under Antonio Conte, with just two appearances in the FA Cup.

While Howe was sorry to lose a player of Ake's quality, the Cherries boss has no issues with the way the situation panned out.

"We were very thankful to Chelsea for loaning him to us in the first place, there has to be that element of trust that we are going to look after one of their brightest prospects, so we were very appreciative of the loan," Howe said.

"We were of course disappointed to lose him because he was integral part of our team, but that is Chelsea's right, their player, they could recall him and I have no problem with it, but obviously it impacted on us at that time.

"We have missed him, on and off the pitch, because he is a great lad and fitted well into our team."

The Bournemouth boss added: "They did what they felt was right for him and their club, so I have no problem with that."