• Team in better shape, even without Champions League, says manager
• Blues coach in the dark over Chelsea’s end-of-season plans
Antonio Conte believes Chelsea are in a far stronger position than when he arrived as José Mourinho’s permanent successor almost two years ago, even if they fail to secure Champions League qualification.
The FA Cup finalists travel to Newcastle on Sunday retaining only faint hopes of a top-four finish, and with Conte expected to depart in the summer. The Italian had inherited a squad who had finished 10th under Mourinho and, from December 2015, the interim stewardship of Guus Hiddink, and spoke last summer about his desire to avoid enduring another “Mourinho season”.