Date published: Friday 11th August 2017 2:07

Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte insisted on Friday he was “not looking for sympathy” over the size of his squad.

The Italian led the Blues from 10th the previous campaign to the Premier League trophy last season.

But with a return to the Champions League resulting in additional fixtures, the Blues’ squad size appears thin.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had an answer, pointing to Chelsea sending numerous players out on loan, while former England captain turned pundit Alan Shearer said there was “something brewing which isn’t nice” at Stamford Bridge.

Conte said: “I’m not looking for sympathy of any coaches for this situation. This is my message.

“The situation is clear. If the club decide to send on loan players for their development it’s because these players are not ready to play for Chelsea.”

Conte kept his counsel on Chelsea’s transfer business, with the summer window open until August 31.

Conte said: “It’s simple. I think I’m the coach of this team. My aim is to try to improve my players, to try to improve my team.

“I repeat: my only task is to focus on the pitch, what happens on the pitch, during the training session to work with my players. This must be my focus during this period.

“The club knows very well what is my opinion. And then I repeat: the club is trying to do their best on the transfer market.”

The Premier League champions’ campaign opens against Burnley at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Conte added: “We are facing different problems. But we must be ready, we must be ready to try to do our best tomorrow.”

One of the issues is that striker Diego Costa, last season’s top scorer, remains in exile.

Conte was unable to offer an update on his situation.

“No news,” Conte added.

Conte was asked when Costa might return to Chelsea.

A Chelsea spokesman intervened, saying: “Nothing to report on that.”