Chelsea have at most ten games left this season, eight in the Premier League to try to salvage Champions League qualification and potentially two more in the FA Cup to try to improve Conte’s legacy (assuming he’s leaving this summer, which narrative the vast majority of the football world continues to subscribe to). Sunday’s game against Spurs is the first of those ten, with the added pressure of a 30-match unbeaten run at Stamford Bridge against the Lilywhites on the line for the Blues.
But Chelsea do actually need to win this game — a draw does no one any good, especially us — which means that Chelsea will need to score at least one goal, and scoring goals has been one of the season’s most consistent problems. Record signing Álvaro Morata started well, but has faded to say the least. The lovely Michy Batshuayi started poorly despite a good pre-season and could never work his way back into Conte’s trust. January signing Olivier Giroud has done well so far, but has just the one goal in two months. And Eden Hazard still isn’t a center forward and, most problematically, no other player can shoulder his usual creative burden when he himself is decamped to front of the line.
Morata’s struggles, both physical and mental, have made perhaps the biggest impact out of all those factors, but according to Antonio Conte, the 25-year-old soon to be first-time father is fully healthy for the first time in a long time and is ready to play well once again.
“I saw him playing very well in this period. He needed to rest, and then to have hard sessions of work to find the best physical condition to prepare himself for the final weeks of the season.
“He had this problem in his back. It was a serious problem because I didn’t know how long his recovery it would take: one day, one month, the whole season. He solved the problem; our medical department was very good to get him in the best physical condition to solve this problem.
“At the start of this period, he continued to feel a bit of pain in his back, but now he is ready. He is totally fit.”
Morata scored Chelsea’s opening goal last time out, in the FA Cup quarterfinal win against Leicester City before the international break. That was just the second goal scored by a Chelsea striker in the last two months — that’s 16 combined appearances for 628 minutes between Morata and Giroud. One of the two will start on Sunday; it’s unclear which one at this point, but a goal from either could go a long way towards ending the season on a good note.
“Olivier is an international player with great experience. For sure they are two different players, and I am happy to have the possibility to pick one solution or another solution.
“Now we have two strong possibilities and I have to make the best decision. For sure when a striker is not scoring the confidence can go down. Goals are of vital importance.
“I am very happy in the last game Alvaro scored an important goal, for us and for him, and now I am waiting for a great end to the season for Alvaro, Olivier and especially the team.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
So say we all.