Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola has stepped up in defence of his countryman, Antonio Conte, insisting that the Blues boss isn't to be blamed for the current crisis at the club.

Conte led the Stamford Bridge side to the Premier League title last season but is now fighting to keep his job after several poor results which have left Chelsea struggling to remain in the top four.


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Many expect Conte to get the axe before the end of the season, yet Zola claims that his thick-skinned friend is unworried by all of the speculation.

“People who ask if he is affected by all of this, they don’t know Antonio very well," the former Blues ace told  Standard Sport.

“I have known Antonio for years and in his career, he has had tough moments, injuries, breakdowns and he has always came back fighting. Antonio doesn’t worry me.

“It is difficult for every manager, we live for results. When things don’t go well we suffer. But Antonio is a manager who has been through periods like this and come out of it very well. I’m sure he can cope.

The Blues have also mad several players injured this season, something which was hardly the case in the last when they returned the title to London. And Zola reckons that the fitness issues have a lot to do with the side's recent failings.

"I understand the concern surrounding Antonio but he is not the main problem," he continued.

“Competition has grown and Chelsea are not as strong. They are not playing as well or scoring as many goals as they’re used to.

“They have had some injury problems recently - they miss Alvaro Morata a lot and Olivier Giroud has only just arrived. But Chelsea are still playing for the FA Cup, Champions League and they’re not far away from the top four in the Premier League. It can still end in a good way.”

Conte will lead his men out in a crucial match against West Brom on Monday. And he must know that failure to win could potentially leave him without a job. Yet given the manager he is and the name he's made for himself over the years, he also knows that he will have no problems landing another top post if Roman Abramovic does give him the boot.