Antonio Conte is expecting a six-way battle for the Premier League title this season, while he predicts teams will give “120 per cent” against champions Chelsea.
Conte led Chelsea to the title in his first season in English football and his win ratio of 79 per cent is the best of any manager in the history of the Premier League.
Chelsea begin their defence at home to Burnley today and the Italian is expecting a tough battle as Chelsea seek to become the first team to retain the league since Manchester United in the 2008-09 campaign.
“I don’t know if this season could be more difficult than last season,” Conte told reporters on Friday. “I don’t know.
“We are champions. We have to face every game in the right way. The other teams will try to give 120 per cent against us. For this reason we have to pay great attention every game, to have the right approach, to have the right intensity. For this reason I’m telling you we’re working very hard to try to improve our team.
“When you start a new season it’s very important to think of ourselves, not to see the others. To assess the other teams is not important for us.
“You know very well that in England there are six top teams ready to fight for the title. This is normal in England. I think also in this season, this will happen.”
After spending heavily on players including Wayne Rooney, Jordan Pickford, Davy Klaassen and Michael Keane, Everton have been tipped to break into the top six this season.
And Conte believes Ronald Koeman’s men are well-placed to compete for honours in the coming campaign, despite losing former Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United for £75million.