Antonio Conte Reportedly Facing Sack If Chelsea Lose to Watford on Monday

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistFebruary 4, 2018

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, right, looks dejected after Bournemouth's second goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge in London, Wednesday Jan. 31, 2018. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
Tim Ireland/Associated Press

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte will reportedly be axed by the club should the Blues lose at Watford on Monday in the Premier League.

According to Neil Fissler of the Sunday Express, the Chelsea board are close to losing patience with the Italian coach after "a combination of poor results and a rift with owner Roman Abramovich over who makes signings has left him on the brink."

Fissler added that Conte will not be at the club next season, despite his current deal running until the summer of 2019.

His report also noted Napoli are set to offer manager Maurizio Sarri a new contract amid speculation Chelsea are keen to secure him as their next boss, per Football Italia.

"We have set a meeting for February 9," Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis said, per the same source. "I can't force Sarri to stay, but if he were to leave, he'd be missing out on a series of projects. We're preparing Casa Napoli, our new training centre, maybe even a new stadium. In any case, I doubt Maurizio is passing through, as he's a very ethical man."

REGGIO NELL'EMILIA, ITALY - AUGUST 23:  SSC Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis and SSC Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri look on before the Serie A match between US Sassuolo Calcio and SSC Napoli at Mapei Stadium - Città del Tricolore on August 23, 2015 in
Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

De Laurentiis also said the manager has a release clause of just €8 million (£7 million) in his current contract.

Conte has been critical of the way in which Chelsea have conducted their transfer business, and ahead of Monday's game, he had another swipe at the recruitment strategy:

B/R Football @brfootball

Antonio Conte wants quality, not quantity 👀 https://t.co/mqZAK5wBt4

In his first season in the Premier League, the former Juventus and Italy boss appeared tailor-made for the Blues, as he built a brilliant side. Chelsea coasted to the title, with Conte's 3-4-3 system the catalyst for incredible improvement.

This season they've been unable to scale the same heights, and performances have recently taken a big downturn. Chelsea's 3-0 loss at home to Bournemouth on Wednesday felt like a nadir in the campaign for the team, and speculation about the manager's future isn't surprising as a result.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 21:  Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea poses with the Premier League Trophy after the Premier League match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on May 21, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

However, Conte has made it clear recently he wants to stay at Stamford Bridge for the foreseeable future, per Liam Twomey of ESPN FC:

Liam Twomey @liam_twomey

Conte insists he has no desire to break his Chelsea contract for the Italy job. On the injury front, Morata (back) & Christensen (hamstring) are out of the Watford game, though Willian could return. Giroud is unlikely to start as he & Emerson need time to regain full fitness #cfc

Sarri would be an intriguing option for Chelsea if they were to replace Conte, as he's done a wonderful job with Napoli.

The Partenopei lead the way in Serie A heading into Week 23 of the campaign and have a chance of ending Juventus' longstanding dominance of the division. Not only are they challenging for the top prize in Italy, their style has been special to watch.

As we can see, courtesy of Goal UK, the coach is steadfast in his desire to play aesthetic football:

Goal UK @GoalUK

“Our objective is the beauty.” Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri insists his side's main goal is to play attractive football. 👏 https://t.co/kkOu9sZIyx

Chelsea head to Watford knowing three points are vital in the battle to finish in a UEFA Champions League spot for next season.

Ahead of the meeting between Liverpool—in third—and Tottenham Hotspur—in fifth—on Sunday, the Blues are two points clear of Spurs and level on points with the Reds. Capitalising on those two meeting is vital for the Chelsea team and seemingly for Conte, too.