International breaks are never not annoying, but this latest one was rather fortuitously timed for Chelsea, as it allowed the club to acquire a couple key reinforcements on transfer deadline day while also giving time for others to fully recover from their respective injuries.
“It was a good moment to stop for the international break. It allowed us to recover the players very well - Hazard for example - and then it gave me the possibility to work with players who need to adapt to our style of football.”
For the first time this season, Chelsea are fully healthy and Conte has all players available to him, except of course Gary Cahill who will be serving the final game of his three-game suspension from opening day.
Conte says there are no injury problems ahead of Saturday's game with Leicester, and everybody is available.— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) September 8, 2017
Most importantly, Eden Hazard is back healthy and fit, thanks in part to using the international break to gain some much needed match fitness. While there was always the added risk of picking up an injury, Hazard came through unscathed and is now raring to go.
Conte on Hazard: 'I spoke with Roberto Martinez and tried the right way to improve Eden's fitness. I was very happy for him to play.'— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) September 8, 2017
Conte isn’t expected to utilize Hazard from the start on Saturday, and if he’s changed his mind in that regard, he certainly wasn’t letting on in Friday’s press conference.
“Eden is available, he is in the squad for the game. He is improving a lot. He worked very hard to be ready. Now I can count on him, but for sure I have to decide the right moment and the right minutes for him. When there is a bad injury and surgery, it’s normal to pay attention to the recovery.”
As for the new signings, Drinkwater needs a bit more time to adjust (a standard situation with Conte) but Zappacosta, who has briefly worked with Conte before in the Italian national team, is ready for action. Conte has even hinted that the new wing-back could be an option on both flanks, spelling either Victor Moses or Marcos Alonso as needed.
“We are working with [Danny], and we are trying to get him in the best physical condition. He is a good buy for us, he is working very well and this week he improved his physical condition a lot. He is in the squad for the Leicester game but I don’t know when he will be ready to play.
“Davide Zappacosta played against Israel for the national team which shows he is in good physical condition. He worked with me at the national team, he knows my style of football and my ideas very well, and for this reason it is more simple for him to adapt himself to our style.
“He is a good, young player and he has a lot of space to improve. He makes good runs during the game, he has good quality and he is a wing-back. Usually he prefers to play on the right but sometimes he plays on the left.
“Davide is ready and very soon you can see his performances. It’s a great chance for him. It’s not easy to play in another country with another type of football, but he has the right characteristics to adapt himself very soon.”
Chelsea have recovered from the atrocious start to the season against Burnley on opening day, but now are set for a hectic seven games in three weeks. As ever, we will need the 150 per cent effort and contributions from all players, not just the first 12-13.
“Tomorrow it will be important to start very well, because in September we have seven games in 21 days. You have to analyse every game and try to have a program, a plan in your mind, but it’s important to analyse game by game, because after Leicester I don’t know if there will be injuries or suspensions, and sometimes you have to change your plan.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC