Chelsea return to football after a rather eventful two-week international break, but the focus is on the treatment room instead of the pitch, as injuries to two key players weight heavy on the mind. Ahead of tomorrow’s game against Crystal Palace, Antonio Conte provided a sobering update on the status of both Álvaro Morata and N’Golo Kanté, while also revealing that Danny Drinwkwater is still not quite ready to play.
“Team news? Bad news! As you know we have three injured players. Morata - I hope to have him back very soon, for the next game against Roma.”
“Drinkwater is progressing well but is not ready yet. We must have patience with him, with his calf problem.”
“The last is Kanté. We are going to do a scan next week to check his situation to see if he is improving. For sure it is a muscular problem, a hamstring problem. This is a big loss for us. You know very well the importance of N’Golo Kanté in our team. We don’t have another player with the same characteristics.”
-Antonio Conte; Source: Chelsea FC
Other than Drinkwater, Conte’s prognosis matches previous rumors of Morata hopefully back in action midweek but Kante probably out through the end of the month. Chelsea’s toughest games coming up over the next three weeks include an away trip to Roma in the Champions League and a home tie against Manchester United at the start of November, but there’s a decent chance Kante missing all of those and won’t be back until after the next international break in mid-Novbember.
On Kante, Conte says it's a muscular problem and he could be out for around 20 days but another scan is needed to understand more. #CFC— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) October 13, 2017
To fill the gap left by the (immense) absence of Kanté, Conte will have to rely on veterans and perhaps even youngsters. Cesc Fàbregas, Tiemoué Bakayoko and David Luiz are the first names in line to step up to the task — though Conte prefers to keep the Brazilian in his defensive duties. Still, even prospects such as Kyle Scott and Ethan Ampadu could be employed if needed.
“We have Fàbregas and Bakayoko and young players too. We must be ready to approach the next seven games using a different solution."
“[David Luiz] is one of the best central defenders. If I can, I prefer not to change a lot. When I decided to use him in midfield against Tottenham, it could be an option but I don't want to change.”
-Antonio Conte; Source: London Evening Standard
But he adds, if necessary, it's an option, as is playing youngsters Ethan Ampadu or Kyle Scott. #CFC— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) October 13, 2017
As for Morata’s absence, Conte could go for his immediate back-up Michy Batshuayi to take starting duties this Saturday. But as usual, no guarantees were given.
He also says Michy Batshuayi is 'in contention' to start against Crystal Palace tomorrow. #CFC— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) October 13, 2017
The concerns over team selection go beyond just injuries thanks to Charly Musonda Jr.’s rant on Instagram, presumably prompted by his lack of chances at Chelsea. Conte said he spoke with the youngster, asking him to be patient and to keep working on his development as he can still show he deserves more chances to play this season.
"I spoke with him and I think Charly understood his mistake. Honestly, I think he has to continue to work very hard to improve himself on the physical aspect and on the tactical aspect, but he is working very well.”
"He must continue to work in the way that he is and to be focused on the pitch and not on social media, because social media is not the most important thing for his career. I told him this and my task is to help him always find the right way, not the wrong way.”
"Honestly I think, above all with young players, it is very important to speak with them and to try to explain which is the right way. I did this. I am sure that he understood and I don't see a problem with him.”
"I think of the expression 'we must be focused on the present'. The only things I can tell for sure are that he is a talented player and I see him very well. He is a really good prospect, to become an important player for Chelsea. I am sure about this. He has to continue to work in this way and for sure the opportunity will come.”
"Charly could have a good opportunity this season to play because we only have three No.10s: Hazard, Willian and Pedro. Usually two No. 10s play, so this season could be good for him to show that he deserves to play."
-Antonio Conte; Source: Sky Sports
Charly is not the only one who will have to work extra hard in the next few weeks, as injuries once again have depleted a squad that was just barely meeting depth requirements for successful campaigns in both the Premier League and the Champions League. Chelsea finished September on a down note with the home loss to Manchester City; a win on Saturday is a necessity to keep pace with the top of the table Manchester teams.