Conte: Missing Champions League may not hurt Chelsea

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The ESPN FC crew debate whether Cesc Fabregas' glowing praise of Olivier Giroud is also veiled criticism of Alvaro Morata.

Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte believes the departure of technical director Michael Emenalo was a pivotal moment for the Blues, who appear likely to miss out on Champions League qualification this Sunday.

Emenalo, one of Roman Abramovich's most trusted lieutenants, ended a 10-year association with Chelsea in early November despite the owner having attempted to persuade him to stay on.

Antonio Conte has hinted that he may rotate his Chelsea FC team for their crunch clash with Newcastle United on Sunday.

And Conte openly admits that losing his technical director made his job more hard.

"To lose Michael, it was a big loss for us, yes", said the Italian, whose team travel to Newcastle today with only slim hopes of securing a top-four finish.

"I think you remember".

The former Juve boss also discussed how hard the English top flight is, and how "unlucky" Chelsea have been in many games this season.

The fifth-placed Blues, champions last season, must win at St James' Park and hope Brighton can win at Anfield to have any hope of beating the Champions League finalists to a place in Europe's elite club competition next season. The Italian's future at Chelsea has been in doubt nearly all season, with several reports claiming he will leave at the end of the season and compatriots Maurizio Sarri, Massimiliano Allegri and Monaco manager Leonardo Jardim have all been touted as potential replacements, but Conte says he is used to dealing with such speculation and is not thinking about the possibility of being sacked.

"For sure, probably, I will go to Milan for the game for Pirlo on the 21st [of May] 'Then we don't know, at the end of the season, if we have friendly games", he responded when asked about Chelsea's summer plans. The former Nigeria defender had cited a desire to spend more time with his young family, although, as it transpired, he would take up a similar position at Monaco a little over three weeks later.

He added: "This is not my decision".

"You have to prepare in right way". This is a decision for others'.

The Italian's contract at the club does not expire until next summer but Chelsea are seriously contemplating sacking him in a move that would cost up to £9million.

"My task is to work, to do my job in the best possible way with these players for the fans".

Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent.