It's been two weeks since Chelsea last played, but now the international break is over — there will be one more round this year, after the first weekend in November — and we can get back to business.
Chelsea will be hosting Leicester City with Saturday’s early kick-off. It will be our second meeting of the season already with the Premier League title-holders, after defeating them 4-2 in the League Cup last month.
In his pre-match press conference, head coach Antonio Conte talked tactics, players, and the need for hard work and commitment. Business as usual.
The first question was of course about the whole betting nonsense, which drew a genuine laugh from the boss.
“I'm trying to find out who put the money on. It's very difficult to talk about this situation because I am focused on my work and to improve the team. I have good communication and a good relationship with the club. Nothing, nothing. I take this with a smile.”
“We are working very hard to change the situation of the last season and trying to build something important for the future. It takes time but it's important to be focused in our targets, now.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Mail
In actual footballing matters, Conte revealed that John Terry is finally available after an ankle injury kept him out for the last month.
Conte says John Terry is available for tomorrow's game. #CFC— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) October 14, 2016
While Conte said he wouldn’t give away the line up today, he did hint that the 3-4-3 seen in our last game, against Hull City before the break, will continue to be used. It does however mean that one of our four available central defenders will have to sit on the bench. It’s unclear who exactly the fourth one is in this counting (Azplicueta? Ivanovic? Zouma?).
"Tomorrow I have four central defenders and I have to take three. One must go on the bench. We are finding the best solution to exact all the players’ talents.”
“Against Hull City, we played a good game. Willian, Hazard and Costa played very well and they did what we want. We must continue in this way. It’s right to have a team that is compact but with players that are very offensive and can create many offensive situations."
"It’s not important if we play with three or four at the back. It’s important to follow the principles we are working on. It was necessary to find a new solution because it’s not right a great team like Chelsea were conceding so many goals."
Conte: 'I love the players who always show a good spirit. The central defenders must be very aggressive and cover the space.' #CFC— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) October 14, 2016
Conte also spoke about Willian, who will be missing the game on a compassionate leave after the passing of his mother in Brazil.
"For Willian we are very sad. We knew the problem with his mum. We are very sad, me, the players, the club. We are very close in this moment to our player. Our players are with him, and his family."
Unlike in our League Cup meeting, former Leicester lynchpin N’Golo Kanté will be expected to play in this one. Conte praised the midfielder’s stamina, determination, personality, and importance to the team.
"He’s an important player. We are very pleased to have him with us. He’s a fantastic player. Good stamina, technique, personality. He has brought great will to fight. He’s a very humble man, a humble player. I like him and I like this type of player – that put the team before themselves."
We are only seven games into the Premier League season but Chelsea forward Diego Costa has already picked up 4 yellow cards — only one card away from receiving a suspension. Conte hopes that Diego doesn't get suspended just yet (next match against Manchester United!), although he believes his backup Michy Batshuayi will be ready to start if and when that happens.
"We know the situation. Diego knows the situation. It was the same before the Hull game. We must think to the present, and not to look forward. Tomorrow he must fight in the same way he did in the previous games. I hope he pays attention and doesn’t get another yellow."
-Antonio Conte; Source: Chelsea FC
Conte: 'Batshuayi is a young player with great potential in the technical and physical aspect. He's ready to play from the start.' #CFC— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) October 14, 2016
Conte also talked about the pressure on managers (“the same” everywhere) and had a few nice words about his opposing number and fellow Italian Claudio Ranieri, while also enjoying the fact that he learned a new word, “mentor”.
So, Chelsea playing at home on Saturday, with a three-men defence and possibly starting John Terry as one of those defenders, looking for a fifth win in eight games to start the season.