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Chelsea boss Antonio Conte confirms title ambitions

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte during training at Stamford Bridge
Image: Chelsea boss Antonio Conte will take charge of his first Premier League game against West Ham

Antonio Conte insists he is not afraid to count his Chelsea side among the Premier League title contenders as they prepare for their opening game of the new season.

The Blues entertain West Ham in Monday Night Football, live on Sky Sports 1 HD from 7pm, with Conte tasked with improving on a disappointing campaign that saw them finish 10th in 2015/16.

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Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho claimed on Friday his rival managers were scared to make bold pledges concerning their team's title ambitions.

But when asked if he feared backing his Chelsea side for silverware in the wake of Mourinho's comments, Conte replied: "No. I must be honest I think that other things scare me, not to win or lose in football.

"I think that in this league it's very tough, and I think that at the moment six, seven, eight teams can fight to win the title.

"And I'm sure Chelsea is a good team and we must work very hard to be in the six, seven teams that fight for the title."

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Chelsea manager Antonio Conte says every Premier League match this season will be tough as they look to put a bad season behind them

Conte believes Diego Costa will play a key role for Chelsea this season but is keen for his striker to act as a focal-point for the team and abandon his previous roving role.

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"Diego is a forward, and he knows that in my idea of football, the forward must always be a point of reference for the team," added the Italian.

"I don't like the forward to move around the pitch, I like the forward to stay there, because you are a forward, and your commitment is to score the goal, stay in the right position.

Diego Costa added a third for Chelsea in their 4-2 win over Werder Bremen
Image: Costa wants Diego Costa to play as an out-and-out striker

"You're a forward, not a midfielder, not a defender.

"Diego Costa is a great player, and I know that he's a fantastic finisher. And I think that Diego can improve still a lot.

"I try to improve all my players. I'm seeing a good attitude from Diego, to work, to improve in different situations. I think Diego can give a lot to this team, and I'm sure that he'll have a good season.

"For me he's an important player, he had a fantastic season two years ago when Chelsea won the title.

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Jamie Redknapp looks ahead to Chelsea's Monday Night Football clash with West Ham, live on Sky Sports 1 HD from 7pm

"Last season for a while he didn't score, then he started to score, but I'm happy that Diego stays here and [wants] to work with us.

"I like the spirit of Diego, because he always shows a great passion. Me, I'm the same, I have great passion for football.

"He doesn't want to lose and I like this passion."

Watch Chelsea v West Ham on Monday Night Football. Coverage begins on Sky Sports 1 HD at 7pm.

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