Antonio Conte
Antonio Conte has 18 months left on his Chelsea contract Getty Images

Antonio Conte has asked Chelsea's owners to issue a public vote of confidence in him amid speculation linking the Italian with a move away from the club.

The defending league champions sit in fourth place in the standings, 18 points behind Pep Guardiola's Manchester City, with reports suggesting that Conte's relationship with owner Roman Abramovich is strained due to the Italian's thinly-veiled criticism of the club's transfer strategy.

Conte risked further aggravating his relationship with the board by suggesting over the weekend that they had erred by bringing in too many new players last summer.

The former Juventus boss has been linked with the vacant Italy job but he said last week that he intended to see out his contract at Chelsea, which runs until the summer of 2019.

Speaking ahead of Chelsea's trip to Watford, Conte said he is happy at Chelsea and urged the board to back the work he is doing at the club.

"Maybe I'd like that the club to prepare a statement for me to tell [the media], 'I trust in his job, I trust in his work'," the Italian was reported as saying by Sky Sports.

"But at the same time I know that in the past it never happened, this, and for this reason why would I hope for something different? For sure, I think that I'd like to have a statement to support against this speculation.

"I'm giving all of myself, me and my staff and also my players, for this club," Conte added.

"And then I think that we are doing the maximum for this club and if the club understands this and the club wants to extend a new contract then we can talk, why not?

"My contract expires in 2019 and my decision is to continue to work with this club."

New Chelsea signing Olivier Giroud looks set to make his debut for the club against Watford in the absence of Alvaro Morata, who is nursing a back injury.