Antonio Conte warns Chelsea risks “another bad season” unless players bear down

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Following Chelsea’s 3-2 defeat to Real Madrid in the International Champions Cup, a scoreline which still yet flattered the Blues, new manager Antonio Conte was not happy with the effort he saw.

The Italian was especially displeased with his team’s defensive work, noting that their off-the-ball presence was quite poor.

“If we think we can’t work together when we don’t have the ball, it is not possible for us and we risk repeating a bad season,” Conte warned after the game. “Today we weren’t a team in defensive situations. It is important to understand this because in the last game I appreciated that we were. Then I thought we could improve when we had the ball. Today we were better with the ball but bad without the ball.”

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Chelsea finished 10th in the Premier League last year, leading to the departure of Jose Mourinho in mid-December. They conceded 53 goals, a better defensive record than just one team above them in the table. The Blues fielded a mostly full-strength defensive unit against Real Madrid, with John Terry, Gary Cahill, and Cesar Azpilicueta all starting. Only Branislav Ivanovic did not appear, an unused substitute off the bench. Asmir Begovic played in goal through the first half and had a poor showing.

“It is important to keep concentration and to work together,” Conte said. “I know it is fatiguing to work without the ball but if we stay compact, like against Liverpool, we can win. If we lose this compact, if we think one, two or three players don’t want to work without the ball, it is possible we see another bad season.”

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The Blues have two more friendlies left before the season starts, both closely packed together. They’ll head to Minneapolis to take on A.C. Milan in another ICC game on Thursday before traveling all the way to Germany for a match with Werder Bremen next Sunday.