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Conte laments squad rotation conundrums, risk versus reward, as Morata set for return

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Chelsea Training Session Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Last season, Antonio Conte was able to rely on a core group of 12-13 players not only due to an easier, less congested schedule thanks to Chelsea’s absence from the Champions League, but also thanks to very few injury problems in the squad. This season, neither of those conditions are true, as we have to deal with games every 3-4 days as well as a sudden rush of muscle injuries to key players, including N’Golo Kanté, Victor Moses and Álvaro Morata.

Fortunately, Morata appears ready to return on Wednesday, and hopefully jumpstart the Chelsea attack that has sputtered as of late back to life. Morata was the first of the recent string of hamstring injuries, but he’s made a remarkably quick recovery in less than three weeks. Conte moved to allay any fears that we are rushing him back too quickly, but it’s still hard to shake the feeling that we are...

“I could have taken a risk on Saturday and forced Morata to play against Crystal Palace, but I am not so stupid because this situation is very difficult. You have to make the best decision and tomorrow, I am not taking a risk if Morata plays.”

“We know very well what our situation is and for sure when there are injuries of this type and to important players, it is very difficult for us. But there is this situation and we must be very good to overcome it and to try to do our best, but for sure it is not simple when you don’t have players like Morata or Kanté, or now Moses. Three important players.”

Our recent injury problems and poor performances indicate that Conte will have to rotate a bit more and a bit more smartly. For many key players, this is the first time in their careers that they are facing so many big games in such little time, and we simply cannot rely on the players playing three games a week all the time. Conte has to trust the rest of the squad — which may or may not be up to snuff — and pick the spots where we can afford to rotate. In fairness, away to Crystal Palace seemed like an ideal opportunity...

“The problem is that the same players are always playing and also we have in our team players who are not used to playing three games in a week. For Kanté it is the first time, for Moses it is the first time, for Morata it is the first time to play regularly with his team. For Alonso it is the same.”

“When you have a lot of games you need to rotate players, and if this is not possible, I have to take a risk. And then, for example against Manchester City, Morata after 20 minutes is injured. But If I don’t put Morata in the starting 11 people would tell me I am crazy. Instead sometimes the players they need to rest.”

Like Chelsea, Roma are coming off a tough loss this weekend, losing at home to league-leading Napoli, 1-0. Roma are currently second in our Champions League qualification group after a 0-0 draw versus Atlético Madrid and a 2-1 away win over Qarabag and will undoubtedly do everything that can to pick up a good result in London. Chelsea meanwhile can grab a third win from three games that could see us all but qualify for the first knockout round, depending on how Atlético fares against Qarabag in the other group match-up.

“For sure it is a good time to play again, above all after two defeats, but we know very well the Champions League is a really tough tournament. I know tomorrow will be difficult because I know Italian football and every team is well-organised. We must pay attention because Roma has a great team and a really good coach.”

-Antonio Conte; Source: Chelsea FC

Chelsea produced one our best ever performances in the previous Champions League match — that seems like ages ago, but it was only three games prior. Let’s have more of that, please!