Jose Mourinho believes Chelsea are still the favourites and has dismissed Antonio Conte's complaints that the Blues will find it difficult to fight for the Premier League title without further additions.
Chelsea have signed four players – Willy Caballero, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Alvaro Morata and Antonio Rudiger - thus far this summer but they have also lost two key players from their title-winning team, Nemanja Matic and Diego Costa.
"For me, the favourite is the champion — always. It is for some reason they were the champions," Mourinho said during his pre-match press conference ahead of Manchester United's game against Swansea City on Saturday (19 August), as quoted by Goal.
"It doesn't mean you're going to win it. I just think it's the stamp you have when you're champions — that the next season you're the favourite."
Matic has joined Manchester United, a move that has surprised a number of former players while Conte himself indicated that it was not his decision to allow the Serbian to leave to a direct rival.
Costa, on the other hand, has been banished from the first-team by the Italian coach and the striker is in a self-imposed exile in Brazil and has made it clear that he is not returning to Stamford Bridge. He is keen to join former club Atletico Madrid and is hoping to secure a move before the end of the transfer window on 31 August.
Conte is keen to make further additions and has identified the full-back and midfield positions as the areas that need further strengthening. Bakayoko has joined from AS Monaco as a replacement for Matic, but the Blues are now on the trail of Leicester City's Danny Drinkwater, Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Juventus' Alex Sandro.
Mourinho, however, believes that despite losing key players, Chelsea remain strong contenders for the title owing to their ability to bring in replacements. The Portuguese manager believes all the top six teams from last season have a chance to win the title.
"When people say, for example, Chelsea lost an important midfield player, if you lose one but you buy Bakayoko and Danny Drinkwater, for example, what's the problem?" Mourinho said about Chelsea losing Matic to United.
"The problem is when you sell and you don't buy. When you sell and you keep buying, what's the problem?
"You're probably even stronger [than last season], so I think every top team in the Premier League is strong enough, is potentially strong enough, with the financial situation to be fighting for everything," the Portuguese coach explained.
"And when everybody is also in Europe — five in the Champions League and then two in the Europa League, you have the top seven teams playing for everything and all of them are strong."