In-form Chelsea gave Ronald Koeman's Everton a 5-0 thrashing at Stamford Bridge before the international break, to make it five wins in a row in the Premier League. The timing of the break was unfortunate in that sense; tough to maintain momentum with no games for two weeks. So we start again.
Conte: 'It was a pity to stop our run for the internationals but this is normal & now we must find a way to restart in the right way.' #CFC— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) 18 November 2016
As usual, Conte addressed the media at Cobham today, ahead of Sunday's match at the Riverside Stadium against Middlesbrough. He started off by giving good news about his players' current fitness state, claiming that everyone is fit to play, including Diego Costa and Cesc Fàbregas, the latter of whom had missed several games with injury.
"The news is that I have all of the players available. They are in good form. Costa had a bit of an injury after the Everton game, he started to train with us on Wednesday and his physical condition is good."
"We still have tomorrow to look at the situation tactically but at the moment he can play. Eden also recovered very well."
Conte: 'Fabregas is in a good shape and is available for Sunday.' #CFC— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) 18 November 2016
Defender Kurt Zouma has recently returned to the pitch after an eight-month recovery from a torn ACL, playing the full 90 minutes for Chelsea U23 last week in the EFL Trophy match against Oxford United that the Blues won on penalties. According to Conte, Zouma is showing good form in training but we need to remain patient and bring him along slowly.
"I'm happy to have the availability of all my central defenders, it's important Kurt is with us. He is in good form in training but it's normal after a bad injury that you need time to recover."
"In this period we prefer him to play with the Under-23s, which he will do on Monday. It's important for him to have game time and it's fantastic to have another great player like Kurt available."
Chelsea collected both the Manager and the Player of the Month awards for October, with Conte and Eden Hazard getting recognized by fans and "experts" alike. Conte of course made his individual award all about the team. It's a bit of a theme with him.
"For me it's a great pleasure, a great hour after three months to receive the award, its fantastic. It's important to share it with my players and also with the staff and the club. This award is for the work of all the team."
"I'm [also] pleased for Eden because he's playing fantastic football. He's working very well in the sessions, showing great attitude and commitment. He's a fantastic player, he's working a lot for the team and it's fantastic when a player with his talent puts it in for the team."
"It's important Eden is showing his talent and playing well, it's not right to compare him to others but he has the potential to do great things in his career."
Yesterday, rumours emerged that that Chelsea assistant first-team head coach Steve Holland might have to leave Chelsea in order to serve as assistant manager to new England boss-elect Gareth Southgate. Whether that comes to pass or not, Holland remains focused on Chelsea for now..
Conte says he is pleased to have Steve Holland as an assistant and at the moment he is focused on Chelsea. #CFC— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) 18 November 2016
Another bit of rumour mill talk that appeared in the past few days involves Oscar and Inter Milan, but when questioned about it, Conte was having none of it, saying that Oscar's future lies at Chelsea. Full. Stop.
"Oscar's future is with Chelsea, full stop. For me he's an important player in our squad. He's in good form but I have to choose the starting 11 every week."
"He's a great player and he's staying with Chelsea, it's important to give this message. I consider him an important player."
-Antonio Conte; Source: Chelsea FC
Transfer rumor talk will only intensify as the winter transfer window approaches. Chelsea have already been linked to several interesting acquisitions and adjustments, but it doesn't sound like Conte's in much of a hurry to make any changes. This is a fairly standard response, though since his arrival, Conte has always emphasized improving and hard work and right solutions rather than just buying whoever may be available.
In regard to dealing with injuries, Conte says the squad is complete and is a good one if replacements are needed during the season. #CFC— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) 18 November 2016
Although Boro, managed by former Mourinho assistant Aitor Karanka, currently sit just 15th place in the table, they have shown quite a lot of resilience in their draws against Arsenal and Manchester City away from home. This won't be an easy challenge for Chelsea, but with tougher games on the horizon against Spurs and Manchester City, it's a must win to keep pace with the other top teams in the Premier League.