Chelsea’s chaotic summer transfer window ended in typically frenetic fashion last week, with the club announcing the deadline day arrivals of Danny Drinkwater and Davide Zappacosta late into the night. Things could have gone very differently had Antonio Conte got his way, however.
One day before the window slammed shut, the Premier League champions learned Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had turned them down, having not been impressed with the manager’s plans to use him as a wing-back and instead signing for Liverpool. The former Juventus boss also tried to spark a reunion with his former Vecchia Signora striker Fernando Llorente, only for the Spaniard to move to join Tottenham Hotspur instead.
In a final blow, Ross Barkley became the latest in a long line of players to reject the Blues, turning around and heading back to Merseyside despite having been given the green light to travel to the capital and undergo a medical with Chelsea after they agreed a £35m (€38.2m) fee with Everton.
Despite the failures, Conte did get two players in to cover two key positions. While many judged his £35m fee as steep, Drinkwater’s signing was a necessary one given the dearth of options in the Chelsea engine room.
He could be in line to make his Chelsea debut on Saturday alongside N’Golo Kante – another former Fox now residing in west London, with The Evening Standard reporting he has a real chance of featuring against his former side in front of a potentially hostile crowd at the King Power Stadium.
A start from the bench may be the more likely, option, however. The England midfielder missed Leicester’s opening three matches of the season due to a thigh problem, although Foxes boss Craig Shakespeare revealed prior to their 2-0 defeat to Manchester United on 26 August that the 27-year-old had returned to training.
Zappacosta, meanwhile, will be hoping to come straight into the starting XI. The 25-year-old deadline day arrival from Torino provided Chelsea fans with a glimpse of what he can bring during Italy’s World Cup qualifier against Israel on Tuesday, coming off the bench for the second half and help the Azzurri snatch a 1-0 win, playing an influential role down the right.
Elsewhere, Gary Cahill is set to serve the final match of his three-game suspension after that red card shown 14 minutes into the new season. The back three of Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger enjoyed a trouble-free afternoon against Everton last time out and is likely to be selected again for Saturday.
Eden Hazard, meanwhile, returned from his ankle injury during the international break, playing a total of 93 minutes in qualifiers against Gibraltar and Greece for Belgium, coming through unscathed. But reports suggest Conte may choose to manage the forward’s return to the first team carefully, with huge fixtures against Arsenal and Manchester City to follow this month. Tuesday’s (12 September) Champions League opener against Qarabag FK could be a more likely option to give him his first start of the season.
The rest of Chelsea’s squad returns from international duty unscathed. We will put our necks on the line here and predict Diego Costa probably won’t start.
Courtois| Azpilicueta, Luiz, Rudiger|Alonso, Kante, Bakayoko, Zappacosta| Willian, Morata, Pedro
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I Know Why Ross Barkley Snubbed Chelsea – Ronald Koeman
Everton manager Ronald Koeman admits that he is aware of the reasons behind Ross Barkley turning down an offer to join Chelsea in the final hours of deadline day.
Chelsea had a fee agreed with Everton for the England midfielder and there was speculation that he was undergoing a medical with the Premier League champions when he decided against going forward with the transfer.
Barkley did say later that he didn’t undergo a medical with any club on deadline day and is keen to recover from his hamstring injury before taking a decision on his future.
Koeman has conceded that it was a strange set of circumstances that led to Barkley continuing at Everton and admits that the player told him the reasons behind his decision to snub a move to Chelsea.
The Everton boss said in a press conference when asked about the saga surrounding Barkley: “It was a strange situation.
“Barkley came to me on Tuesday and explained why he turned down Chelsea.
“That’s private talks.
“Barkley was open to a move.
“He’s still an Everton player.”
Tottenham have also been interested in the midfielder and they could make a move for him in the January transfer window.