“Six finals” await Chelsea in the Premier League run-in after a 2-0 loss at Manchester United that leaves their title chances at only “50 percent”, manager Antonio Conte said.
Having hoped to re-establish a seven-point lead over second-place Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea’s advantage remains four points following Sunday’s defeat at Old Trafford.
They remain in the driving seat and will face only one top-seven side — Everton — in their last six games, but Conte suggested his team can no longer be considered outright favourites.
“We have to think that there are six finals from now until the end,” said the Italian, who was without goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois due to injury and wing-back Marcos Alonso due to a virus.
“The league is open and we have a 50 percent probability to win the league.”
Conte accepted that his team “deserved” to lose and said the outcome of the match was his fault for failing to sufficiently motivate his players.
But in a pointed reference to Chelsea’s struggles last season under Jose Mourinho, now the United manager, he said his team’s quest for the title deserved to be considered a “miracle”.
“I prefer to fight for the title instead of don’t fight for the title and stay calm. The pressure is normal and we are lucky to have the pressure,” said Conte.
“Last season Chelsea had no pressure; 10th place and you play calm, you are happy.
“We must understand this, that (something) really important is happening this season because we are doing a great job and a miracle if you consider last season and the problems we had.
“For this reason we must have great enthusiasm to play these last six games. If we win, we must be proud. Otherwise we must clap another team.”
Mourinho’s decision to man-mark Eden Hazard and Pedro effectively muzzled Chelsea, who failed to register a shot on target in a league game for the first time since 2007.