Gianfranco Zola has said that he was surprised at how quickly Chelsea has improved since Antonio Conte took over in the summer. However, he thinks that by not playing in Europe it gives them an advantage they haven’t had in recent years.

Last weekend Chelsea ended Tottenham Hotspur’s unbeaten run in the Premier League defeating them 2 – 1 and placing them at the top of the table, one point clear of Liverpool and Manchester City after 13 games. Last season they just about managed a tenth place finish under Jose Mourinho and then Guus Hiddink.

Between 1996 and 2003 Zola made 229 appearances for the team. He said that he expected Conte to turn the club’s fortunes around but said that he was impressed at how quickly he has managed to make his mark.

Speaking earlier in the week he said, “I know how Antonio works, how good he is. To see the work flourishing so quickly is a surprise but it’s all down to the work he does and his ability as a coach. He deserves it.”

He went on to say that by not playing in Europe the team will be better rested as they have fewer games but added that it is no guarantee of doing well domestically.

He said that they will need to keep up the hard work if they are to win this season’s title as there are five or six other teams that are capable of doing so. However, he said that if they can maintain their current level of performance then he believes that they have a good chance.

This afternoon Chelsea play Manchester City away in what could prove to be a crucial game in the battle for the top spot over the Christmas break.