Between the two of them, they had a grand total of 16 minutes of gametime in the last two months, but Nathan Aké and Michy Batshuayi combined for 150 minutes of effective football on Saturday, allowing Conte to rest (drop?) Diego Costa in attack and keep the defensive line mostly intact in Cahill’s absence through illness.
Aké especially looked quite capable lined up on the left end of the defensive line and doubling the amount of glorious hairdos in Chelsea’s three-man defence. (Need Captain Azpilicueta to fashion himself a mohawk or something to complete the look.) Batshuayi meanwhile did fade out of the game quite quickly, but was very effective early on as the target man up front, knocking balls down for Pedro & Co to run onto. The 60 minutes was by far the most he’s ever gotten in a pressure game for Chelsea; hopefully it’s the first step back towards relevancy in the squad this season and next, rather than a last hurrah before a summer departure.
For Conte, the two youngsters validated a couple huge decisions he had to make prior to the game.
“I am pleased because Michy started this really important game, and it is very important for him and for his confidence, and the same for Ake who is a young player from our Academy and we must be proud to see his commitment and the level that he played in this game as it is not easy, but I trust them and I trust every single player, and today showed this.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
Whether that trust translates to any more significant appearances for either this season remains to be seen, but the spirit and the confidence of the team seems to be back in the right place after the gutpunch it got last weekend from Mourinho.