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Chelsea’s Antonio Conte denies favouritism before Burnley opener

Manager tries to play down expectations after champions’ quiet summer in the transfer market and puts his trust in Michy Batshuayi up front

If you were to judge him by body language alone you would not think Antonio Conte was a manager currently in possession of the Premier League title. The man who blew away all competition in his first season in English football spent much of his final press conference before the new season hunkered low, his forehead furrowed, his eyes beaming a combination of wariness and ennui.

Three months after winning the league his Chelsea side are down in numbers and it is clear the Italian wants more names in his squad. He will start the season not only without Nemanja Matic, sold to Manchester United for £40m, but missing Eden Hazard and Pedro through injury. He will not talk about Diego Costa, last season’s leading goalscorer who has been frozen out of the first team and is now in legal dispute with the club. He insists his side are not the favourites to retain their crown. Yet the suspicion remains Conte enjoys the adversity he believes his club to be facing. That, in fact, he thrives on it.

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