Antonio Conte has refused to write off Arsenal in the Premier League title race after the Gunners’ defeat on Tuesday saw Chelsea’s lead at the top of the table stretch to nine points.

Arsene Wenger’s men lost 2-1 to Watford at the Emirates Stadium, while Chelsea earned a point at Anfield with a 1-1 draw with Liverpool.

Arsenal, who slipped to third in the Premier League table, face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, and Conte believes his opponent is still a contender for the Championship.

“For sure, we face another great team, because Arsenal can fight for the title,” Conte said on Tuesday, as quoted by Chelsea’s official website. “Don’t forget, in the previous game (against Arsenal) we lost 3-0 away.

“This could be a good chance for us to show that now we are a totally different team if you compare to the previous game.”

He added: “This week is very important for us, and we want to finish this week in the right way by preparing very well for this Arsenal game.”

The last time Conte’s boys came up against Arsenal, they suffered an embarrassing 3-0 defeat that followed losing at home to Liverpool. The Italian changed Chelsea’s system to 3-4-3, sparking a 13-match winning run in the Premier League.

Chelsea goalkeeper Courtois has also only been beaten five times since the defeat in north London in September.

Arsenal head towards Saturday’s Premier League encounter away to Chelsea in the grips of a midfield crisis and a fresh bout of soul-searching over the direction of the club who are on the verge of exiting yet another title race before the first week of February is over.

Aaron Ramsey’s calf injury adds to a list of central midfield absentees with Granit Xhaka suspended, Santi Cazorla injured long-term and Mohamed Elneny at the Africa Cup of Nations with Egypt and also carrying a calf strain. Added to that, Jack Wilshere is on a season-long loan at Bournemouth without a recall clause having been inserted in the deal.

It means that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is likely to be drafted in alongside Francis Coquelin to face Chelsea. If Arsenal lose, the gap with the leaders will be 12 points with 14 matches to go and Arsène Wenger’s side then looking to maintain a place in the top four.




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