Conte: Chelsea's winning mentality can't be questioned
Antonio Conte says he has had a "fantastic" season at Chelsea, dismissing suggestions of a drop in mentality from the Premier League champions.
Manchester City's runaway campaign has left the rest of England's elite in their wake, including the Blues, who are 19 points behind the leaders and look certain to surrender their title.
Of the previous six managers to win the league, only Manuel Pellegrini has stayed in the job throughout the following campaign, the Chilean lasting two years at City before he was replaced by Pep Guardiola.
Conte has a contract at Stamford Bridge until the end of next season but has been regularly linked with a departure when 2017-18 concludes – reports he has routinely batted away.
Chelsea have only won one of their last four games to fall further away from City, with Tottenham snapping at their heels in fifth place, but Conte says his players have not lost focus.
"We missed only one game mentality-wise, against Watford [a 4-1 defeat]," Conte said. "From the start of the season, in every game, our mentality was top.
"There is always great commitment and great behaviour. But I've said this many times. I'm very happy to be the coach of these players. I'm very pleased, 100 per cent, to work with these players.
"A winning mentality is about the way you prepare the game, your commitment during training sessions, always at 100 per cent and to have good behaviour with your coach, team-mates, fans, the opponents... this is a winning mentality."
Asked to sum up the campaign, he said: "I think my season, that is the club who judges the season. Not personally.
"When I put 200 per cent into this club every day in Cobham, personally it's always a fantastic season for me. The others have to judge my season, and the season of my players."
Chelsea were unfortunate not to come away with victory from Tuesday's Champions League last-16 first leg against Barcelona, Lionel Messi cancelling out Willian's opener.
With visits to Manchester United and City their next two assignments, Conte hopes to get on a winning roll ahead of the second leg at Camp Nou.
"I think that we have just started to play massive games, with Barcelona, now United and City," he said.
"We have just started to play these massive games. For sure, my hope is to have all my players available. When you have to play these massive games, you must hope to have all players available. Otherwise, we are in trouble."