Chelsea beat Brighton with six senior players unavailable, and unfortunately two of them will remain out for this all-important midweek clash against Arsenal in the second leg of the League Cup semifinal.
According to head coach Antonio Conte, Álvaro Morata and Cesc Fàbregas remain out of contention, due to back and hamstring injuries, respectively. Morata had missed the weekend’s match through suspension but managed to pick up a back injury anyway.
Other players will also have their fitness status checked before kickoff tomorrow. Cahill (hamstring), Drinkwater (ankle), and Courtois (ankle) had all missed the weekend’s 4-0 win.
Antonio Conte reports that Alvaro Morata and Cesc Fabregas are out of tomorrow's game. Morata has a problem with his back. A couple of other players will be checked before the game.— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 23, 2018
The good news on the injury front is that Andreas Christensen is fit to play after a rather scary head-to-head encounter, literally, with Brighton’s Shane Duffy, which forced the Chelsea man out of the game after initially trying to play on.
Conte adds that Andreas Christensen is available to play tomorrow.— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 23, 2018
As it stands, Michy Batshuayi would be Morata’s natural replacement at centre-forward, especially when taking into consideration the form he showed over the weekend in linking up with Hazard and Willian. But Conte, as usual, was reluctant to confirm any plans regarding tomorrow’s starting lineup.
“I have another night before I decide the starting 11. Every game is different, you change the quality of your opponent and you must be intelligent enough to understand if you should continue with the same players or make some changes.”
Conte will obviously choose whatever lineup he feels gives us the greatest chance of overcoming the 0-0 draw from the first leg. He did hint that he expects an open game, which was exactly the case when Chelsea played at the Emirates a few weeks ago in the league. With both teams gunning for the final, there could be plenty of drama in this one.
“For sure there is a target for both teams, to reach the final of the competition. That’s a good target for us and Arsenal, and for this reason I think after a 0-0 [in the first leg] the game will be very open.”
“For myself, our players and fans it’s an important target. In my first one-and-a-half seasons I have the opportunity to win the league, play the FA Cup final, Community Shield and the Carabao Cup final. But to reach the final we have to play against Arsenal, which is always a big challenge and a big game, they want to go to the final in the same way as we do.”
-Antonio Conte; Source: Chelsea FC
Conte has yet to beat Arsenal away from the Bridge in three tries. Hopefully it’s fourth time lucky tomorrow!