Antonio Conte can save his job at Chelsea by beating Barcelona in the Champions League, says Ruud Gullit
Conte appeared to be on the brink of being sacked earlier in the month after Chelsea’s desperate 4-1 defeat at Watford, but results have improved in recent weeks.
The Blues thrashed Hull City in the fifth-round of the FA Cup, before holding Barcelona to a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their last-16 Champions League clash at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea’s momentum came to an abrupt halt last weekend, however, as they suffered a 2-1 defeat to top-four rivals Manchester United.
Conte’s future has been the subject of intense speculation over the last few months despite the Italian suggesting he intends to see out his contract.
The Blues are said to be lining up a move for Conte’s replacement, but Gullit says he can still hold onto his job if he beats Barcelona to progress further in the Champions League.
‘If he gets Barcelona out of the Champions League, then it will be very difficult to replace him,’ Gullit, who managed Chelsea between 1996 and 1998, told Omnisport.
‘He knows that, he knows also that the championship in England is difficult now to get. They know that as well.
‘Manchester City have now won the EFL Cup so they have the confidence, it’s hard for them to lose any points [in the Premier League]… So the best thing is to focus yourself on the Champions League.’
Chelsea impressed in the first leg of their Champions League clash against Barcelona and Willian fired Conte’s side in front after striking the post twice in the first half.
But Lionel Messi ensured Barca scored a vital away goal with a crisp strike in the second half and Gullit believes it will be difficult for Chelsea to progress.
‘I think it’s going to be tough because if they lose these games there could be pressure on Conte, pressure on everything,’ he added.
‘They came out of it and then the game against Manchester United of course was a setback, and then I think to get a good result against Manchester City [on Sunday], will be difficult as well.
‘Barcelona, I still think they have a chance. Also because it’s a big pitch so it means you have lots of space for the counter-attack.
‘They did well in the first half. The only thing is they made mistakes and they get punished for it hard. This is top of the top football, so you have to stay focused for 90 minutes, maybe more.’