clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Conte confirms heavy squad rotation, Drinkwater injury for Chelsea's Champions League return

New, comments

Given the difficulty of the Premier League — “you are never relaxed in England”, as Conte put it in Monday’s press conference — opportunities to rotate the squad against ostensibly easier opposition, to keep the squad fresh for the busy fixture list of September, are few and far between.

Qarabag FK, the Champions of Azerbaijan should be on such opportunity however, so even though Tuesday’s game will be Chelsea’s long-awaited return to Europe’s biggest competition, Conte will not be fielding the strongest starting lineup available to him.

“We played a tough game against Leicester, we spent a lot of energy. To play seven games in 21 days is not easy. For this reason, it’s normal to prepare some rotations.

“When you make decisions there is always a risk. The risk could be to play with the same players as against Leicester, and then after the game [you’re asked] why you didn’t change the team because the team was tired.

“I trust all the players in my squad. There is the necessity to rotate and play game by game. I am very calm about this because I trust my players. They must feel totally involved in this process.”

-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC

We could thus see Charly Musonda make his full debut for the club, with Conte continuing to play it very careful in managing Hazard’s recovery.

Meanwhile, Gary Cahill, who was suspended for the last three games after the opening day red card against Burnley, will be available.

Danny Drinkwater unfortunately will not be.

Another absence from the starting lineup will be Álvaro Morata, but only because Conte does not want to tire him out.

Although we should expect Chelsea to brush aside Qarabag with ease, Conte is aware of the potential dangers caused by teams who have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Everyone must, as usual, pay great attention.

“Qarabag are a good team. It’s the first time they’re playing this competition. I know a lot of their players very well because I played against Azerbaijan in qualifying when I was Italy coach. They have a lot of players who play for the national team.

“I like to call these kind of games tricky games. We played two days ago, and then we have to play tomorrow, and then we have to play a difficult game against Arsenal. We must pay attention.”

If we do that, our Champions League campaign should get off to a positive, winning start, one that will then hopefully continue well into the spring.

“For sure in the Champions League we are starting a path. Remember before winning a competition you need to work very hard and improve every year step by step, and arrive then to be ready for Real Madrid or Bayern Munich or Juventus. You don’t create a big, strong team easily.

“It’s a great competition and we must be proud to play it. We must understand we are starting a path. I hope this path is short. We will try to be competitive in a short time and not wait three, four or five years.”

-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC

So say we all.