Antonio Conte has saluted “unstoppable” Manchester City as the Chelsea manager prepares for Sunday’s clash with the runaway Premier League leaders.
Conte’s reigning champions head to Manchester lagging 22 points behind City and look certain to have to surrender the title to Pep Guardiola’s men.
City have been riding high all season and face Chelsea on the back of successive 3-0 drubbings of Arsenal in last weekend’s League Cup final and then the Premier League on Thursday.
Sitting 16 points clear of second-placed Manchester United, it is only a matter of time before City are crowned champions and Blues boss Conte acknowledged their rivals’ quality makes them almost impossible to beat.
“In this moment they seem unstoppable,” Conte told reporters on Friday.
“We must have great admiration for this team because they are having a fantastic path in this season.
“Sometimes it’s very difficult to find a weakness in this team.”
City finished third, 15 points behind Chelsea, in Guardiola’s first season in charge, but now are champions elect.
Asked the reason for the turnaround in such a short space of time, Conte’s answer hinted at his season-long frustration with Chelsea following a series of reported disagreements with the club’s hierarchy over transfer policy.
“When you work very well and there is a great feeling between the manager and the club, you can work in the way you want, to try to improve your team in the best way,” Conte said.
“Manchester City have the possibility to spend a lot of money. When you link this situation, good manager, much money to spend in the transfer market, the same ambition, this is the final result.”
Asked if he expects City to dominate again next season, Conte had a worrying answer for the rest of the Premier League.
“Yes, for sure because they have the possibility to spend money, to improve the quality of the starting XI, the quality of the squad,” he said.
“If you remember I always said for the other teams, they have to pay great attention to Manchester City. Manchester City is a fantastic reality.
“I think last season Manchester City were always a fantastic team. But after one season, then the manager tried to improve the quality of the starting XI, to improve the quality in his squad. This is the result.”
Chelsea are seeking to avoid three successive away league defeats for the first time in five years as they battle to secure a top-four finish.
Conte’s team are two points behind fourth-placed Tottenham and he called on his players to fight to qualify for the Champions League.
“As I said before, for us, now in this moment, we have to try to get a place in the Champions League. It won’t be easy,” he said.
“There are many teams very strong. We must be ready to fight and try to get a place for next season in the Champions League.”