Conte hopes Holland stays focussed on title race

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Conte hopes Holland stays focussed on title race
Conte hopes Holland stays focussed on title race

LONDON: Chelsea manager Antonio Conte said he will be sorry to lose assistant Steve Holland to the England set-up at the end of the season and hopes he can remain focussed on his job at the Premier League leaders.

Holland, 46 and who has been with Chelsea’s coaching staff since 2009, agreed to become assistant to England head coach Gareth Southgate on Wednesday.

Conte, who took over at Chelsea this season after a stint as Italy national coach, said he hoped Holland’s professionalism would prevent him from thinking too far ahead to the task that awaits him in the England role.

“Now, I think also for Steve, (it is important) to be focused on this season, because this season is very important for us and Steve is a very good professional,” said Conte at his press conference ahead of Monday’s match with Bournemouth.

“It’s important to be focused on the present. I have a great staff, a fantastic staff. There is a great spirit. The future, we’ll see.”

Conte, who will be without the suspended duo of leading scorer Diego Costa and French midfielder enforcer N’Golo Kante as the Blues bid to win a 12th successive Premier League match, said he understood Holland wishing to be part of the national coaching staff.

“It’s a pity to lose him,” said Conte, who guided Italy to the Euro 2016 quarter-finals where they lost on penalties to Germany.

“But also I can understand him for this choice, because this type of situation can arrive only once in life, to be a coach or assistant coach of your national team or your country.

“He’s helping me a lot in my experience in Chelsea because he has great experience with this club.”

Conte, who will mull over whether to give 23-year-old Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi a start in place of Costa, gave his players three days off this week ahead of a packed Christmas and New Year programme with Costa and Kante getting an extra day.

“The most important thing is to recover, not only with your body, above all with your head,” the 47-year-old Italian explained.

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