Chelsea manager Antonio Conte could rest Alvaro Morata for his side’s Champions League opener against Qarabağ with Danny Drinkwater unavailable due to injury.
After Saturday’s victory over Leicester City, the Premier League champions now face a clutch of six games across three competitions over the next 19 days in a run which begins at home to the champions of Azerbaijan on Tuesday.
The Blues host Arsenal at Stamford Bridge at the end of the week and while Conte says that match won’t play a factor in his team selection for Tuesday, he says Saturday’s battle with Leicester at the King Power Stadium is likely to call for some squad rotation.
“I think the only game that has influence [on team selection] is Leicester game, because we played a tough game and spent a lot of energy,” Conte told a press conference on Monday. “For sure, to play six games in 21 days is not easy and for this reason it is normal to prepare some rotation, I trust my players, there is the necessity to rotate and to play game by game.”
Morata, who has scored three and assisted two in his first four games for Chelsea, completed the full 90 minutes against the Foxes having also been busy over the international break. The former Real Madrid and Juventus forward came off the bench to score against Spain before starting and finishing in the 8-0 win over Lichtenstein, notching twice for La Roja in that contest.
With Michy Batshuayi waiting in reserve, Conte could hand the club’s record signing a midweek rest ahead of the visit of the Gunners.
“Morata played the whole game with Spain [against Lichtenstein] and the whole game with Leicester so I have to check many situations and then make the best decision for tomorrow,” Conte said. “But I repeat, it is normal, it is necessary to rotate my players. But I am calm, I trust my players.”
Eden Hazard meanwhile made his Chelsea return on Saturday, coming off the bench having undergone ankle surgery in the summer. Conte has suggested he will carefully manage the Belgian’s full return to action, with a bench role likely for the visit of Qarabağ.
“He is in the squad, he is working very well to find his best physical condition but he needs a bit of time to continue to improve and to avoid stupid risks, He is available and will be on the bench.
“You know well the importance of this player. He is a top player, we are looking forward to have him in our team.
Drinkwater also made the bench against his former club on Saturday but was not called upon. His wait for his Chelsea debut is likely to continue after picking up a minor knock in training.
“Drinkwater has a muscular problem in his calf. We are waiting to check the problem.”
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January move hinted at as Chelsea plot move for talented midfielder
Aside from an early loss to Burnley, the Blues in the bar are absolutely delighted with their start to the season, so reports from the Daily Express have only added to the good feelings today.
They claim the club are keen on signing Bayer Leverkusen youngster Atakan Akkaynak and could make a move for the talented teen in January. Indeed, the 18-year-old is understood to have interested a number of top clubs over the past few months, reportedly including Barcelona.
Leverkusen are understood to be open to the idea of cashing in on the 18-year-old midfielder, who sees his contract expire in 2019 and is yet to feature in a senior game for Die Werkself. A German U19 international, big things are expected of Atakan Akkaynak and our west London locals hope he develops over at Stamford Bridge.
While much has been made about the struggles young players face when breaking into the Chelsea side, they seriously hope Conte can attract some wonderkids to SW6 before their stadium move.
Chelsea’s stadium move will make life difficult when it comes to spending, so trying to attract young talent to the club in order to develop and help them during that period is a very wise idea indeed.