Antonio Conte has confirmed Ross Barkley remains in contention for a place on the bench against Norwich City in midweek, boosting squad numbers in the midst of a gruelling run.
Our progression to the Carabao Cup semi-finals, along with Wednesday night’s replay of our FA Cup third-round tie, has ensured an already busy period since mid-December has turned into a relentless run of matches.
Each of our games in 2018 has ended in a draw, the most recent three goalless, and Conte has acknowledged that fatigue has played a part. However, new signing Barkley’s imminent availability for selection will provide a welcome boost.
‘I think it’s a problem not only for us – I saw many players tired,’ he said. ‘Don’t forget, we played a massive game on Wednesday night against Arsenal. Then I decided to pick the same formation.
‘Maybe I made a mistake because many players didn’t recover. But this topic is not only for one player, but for many when you face all competitions; when you are very good to go to the next round, to reach the semi-finals. You want trophies. You play FA Cup, you play Champions League, then the league. I think you must have a big squad to face every game.’
The newest addition to the Blues’ ranks, who joined us in the first week after the transfer window reopened, is still awaiting his first appearance of the 2017/18 campaign having been injured at Everton in the first half of the season. That could come on Wednesday when Norwich City play at Stamford Bridge to decide who will host Newcastle United in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
‘Ross is working very well with us on the tactical and physical aspect,’ reported Conte. ‘Against Norwich he could be available to start on the bench and then to play a part of the game. For sure, he is a good signing for us, a young player with great potential.’
While the performance and result against Leicester City on Saturday did not meet the high expectations set by Conte and the players, the Italian moved to assure supporters that everyone is giving their all and any decisions he makes are for the good of the team.
‘Every game I try to make the best decision for us,’ he said. ‘The players know very well my philosophy and the first target is the best for the club.
‘We are doing 120 per cent. We want to try to do our best and it’s normal. You can win, you can lose, but the most important thing is to put all your strength on the pitch.’