Chelsea’s struggles to defend their Premier League title should be expected, former manager Claudio Ranieri has said. 

The Italian has insisted that Chelsea’s disappointing start to the league campaign – sitting nine points off pace-setters Manchester City – was down to their lack of transfers this summer and having more titles to fight for.

Ranieri said: “It’s difficult to win the league the second year. Chelsea also has the Champions League and then it’s not easy.

“It’s not easy when a lot of other teams are renovating their players.”

The champions endured a chaotic final day of the summer transfer window when Danny Drinkwater and Davide Zappacosta joined on deadline day, while moves for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Fernando Llorente and Ross Barkley fell through.

More than £100million was invested in the squad after Conte signed Alvaro Morata, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Antonio Rudiger after the departure of Nemanja Matic, who was sold to title rivals Manchester United and Diego Costa, who moved to Atletico Madrid.

News surrounding Conte’s new XI fuelled his critics’ belief that the Italian manager’s squad was less stronger than the one that won the Premier League title last season.

But despite that, Ranieri admires Conte’s work ethic and believes he will do well for Chelsea.

In Pictures | Chelsea train ahead of Roma | 30/10/17

“He is happy. He is a fantastic manager and tries to do the best for Chelsea,” he added.

The Blues battle with Roma on Tuesday night to secure qualification for the Champions League knockout stages.

The Group C rivals meet at the Stadio Olimpico to conclude the second half of their double-header, having previously shared the points in a thrilling 3-3 Stamford Bridge draw a fortnight ago.