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Italy Lines Up Chelsea Coach, As World Cup Dream Suffer Setback

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Italian Football Federation has been reported to be getting ready to make a remarkable offer to Antonio Conte to return as their national coach for a second time after next summer’s World Cup.

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Following undying rumours about Conte leaving Chelsea at the end of this season, which have swirled around Stamford Bridge for some time now, with the 48-year-old is apparently unhappy at the failure of the club to land all his transfer targets this summer. This became more obvious after Conte said he admire the squad of rival Pep Guardiola whose club was the most active in the summer transfer window.

According to Express Sport, influential figures within the FIGC want Conte back in charge of Italy after Gian Pero Ventura failed to impress during their World Cup qualifying campaign. Italy lost embarrassingly 3-0 in Spain, and last week only drew 1-1 at home to Macedonia.

They have, however made it to the play-offs as runners-up but it has not been a happy dressing room. Last night, veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was forced to deny rumours of a dressing-room plot against the coach.

It would be recalled that Conte had a successful two-year stint in charge of the Azzurri, taking Italy to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, where they lost to Germany in a penalty shoot-out.

Conte signed a new deal with Chelsea at the end of last season after winning the Premier League, but that only bumped his salary up to around £9.6million a year, and did not extend it beyond the three years he had originally committed to.

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Last week, Conte insisted that, “I have nostalgia for Italy. Once I have had some more nice experiences I will return to Italy, for sure. I don’t know when, but the goal is to do that.”

AC Milan are also on Conte’s trail and are ready to make him an offer this summer, but Chelsea want the popular Italian to stay, and are ready to spend in January to help improve his squad, with £60m Juventus wing-back Alex Sandro still a key target.

In a major blow to Conte, top scorer Alvaro Morata will not be fit for the visit to Crystal Palace on Saturday and midfielder N’Golo Kante is also injured during international duty. However, deadline day signing, Danny Drinkwater is expected to be back for the Blues.

The Spain striker picked up a grade 2 hamstring injury in Chelsea’s defeat by Manchester City last week and the Spaniard has been having intensive treatment, but will not recover in time.

Morata will begin light running in the next few days and the club have pencilled in the home Champions League game with Roma, on Wednesday week, as his comeback date.

However the Blues should still have too much for rock-bottom Palace, who are yet to earn a point or score a goal so far this season, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek will not be playing against his parent club, Chelsea.

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