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Drinkwater ruled out for rest of the month; all other Chelsea players fit and ready for Arsenal

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Danny Drinkwater will have to wait at least another month to make his Chelsea debut thanks to the calf injury he picked up earlier this week. The former Leicester City midfielder was on the bench against his former team last Saturday, but did not make the team for Tuesday and now is not expected to be back until after the next international break. Chelsea’s schedule for the second half of October looks almost as busy as the schedule for the second half of September (and could get busier depending on League Cup progression), so Drinkwater hopefully will stop being injured by then.

In more positive squad news, everyone other than Drinkwater is available and (almost totally) fit and ready for action. Eden Hazard may not quite be 100 per cent yet, but Conte did not rule him out categorically — though Conte rarely reveals anything definitive ahead of actual competitive matches.

“For sure he’s improving. Having this patience with him is paying off. He is very close to being totally fit. We have to continue in this way. I have to make the best decision for the team and the players, but he’s improving a lot and is very close to being 100 per cent fit.”

Fitness is of course a concern for every player in the squad these days with the busy fixture list, but having had four full days between games, and having rotated well for Tuesday’s win over Qarabag, Conte should have plenty of choices available to him. Including, possibly

Now it’s just the matter of not taking Arsenal too lightly and making all the right choices. Simples, right?

“I have another day to check on the physical condition of my players and then I’ll try to make the best decision for the Arsenal game.

“The answer of my players in the last game was positive. I’m pleased with the commitment and the performance of my players, it was very positive. Now there is another tough game.

“Arsenal are one of the top six teams in England. They have a very good squad and have the chance to fight for the title. It’s a massive game for us. When you play against Arsenal it’s always a massive game – the same as against City, United, Liverpool, Tottenham.

“Anything can happen. We have to fight against a rival. I watched their game [on Thursday] and they rotated a lot of players and rested a lot of players for the game against us, so I don’t think the fact they played after us is an advantage.”

Given what has transpired the last two times Chelsea played (and lost) to Arsenal in a competitive or semi-competitive setting, job number one will be to keep all eleven on the field. Conte reflected on those red cards in the FA Cup final and Community Shield with a wry smile. He was definitely not smiling inside.

“I hope to finish the game with 11 players. Then, during the game, the best will win.”

-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC

May the best win, as long as that’s Chelsea.