Batshuayi ready for EPL chance with Costa out

LONDON • Chelsea will resist attempts by rival football clubs to secure Michy Batshuayi on loan next month, as the Belgium forward prepares to make his first English Premier League start for the leaders when Bournemouth visit Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day.

The £33.2 million (S$59.3 million) summer signing from Marseille is poised to deputise for the suspended Diego Costa, following the striker's fifth caution of the season at Crystal Palace last Saturday.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte could still opt to utilise Eden Hazard in a central role, flanked by Pedro Rodriguez and Willian but the chance to offer Batshuayi his first league start is expected to sway his decision.

The forward has made only 13 appearances for the London club to date this campaign, with his three starts all in the League Cup.

With the player reduced to a bit-part role, West Ham have indicated a desire to take the 23-year-old on a six-month loan in January.

That inquiry will be knocked back, with Conte conscious that Batshuayi is his only senior alternative to Costa up front.

The Spaniard was substituted at Selhurst Park after complaining of tightness in his hamstring. And, while that should not prevent him from featuring against Stoke on New Year's Eve, it was a reminder that niggling injuries may play a part in the remainder of the season.

Nemanja Matic has also backed Batshuayi to do a good job.

"When you have Diego in the team it is very hard to get a chance because he is playing so well and scoring goals, but I'm sure Michy is ready to take his opportunity because he is working hard every day," the Serbia midfielder told the London Evening Standard.

Batshuayi is not the only Chelsea player to have interested West Ham of late.

The Blues' back-up goalkeeper, Bosnian Asmir Begovic, has been targeted and there could also be a loan offer submitted for the young midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

Conte intends to hold talks with the technical director, Michael Emenalo, and the English player, before determining whether he should seek to gain first-team experience away from Stamford Bridge over the second half of the season.

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2016, with the headline 'Batshuayi ready for EPL chance with Costa out'. Print Edition | Subscribe