Blues youngsters get a chance

Michy Batshuayi is set to feature in Chelsea's FA Cup third-round tie with League One side Peterborough United.
Michy Batshuayi is set to feature in Chelsea's FA Cup third-round tie with League One side Peterborough United.PHOTO: REUTERS

Conte to start Zouma in defence, Batshuayi in attack against Peterborough in FA Cup

LONDON • Kurt Zouma and Michy Batshuayi are set to feature in Chelsea's FA Cup third-round tie with League One side Peterborough United today.

Manager Antonio Conte will rest some of his first-team players against the third-tier club, four days after the Blues' 13-game Premier League winning run ended with a 0-2 defeat at Tottenham.

He plans to start Zouma in defence, 11 months after the Frenchman suffered a horror injury, rupturing cruciate knee ligaments against Manchester United last February.

Conte has confirmed he is looking to buy new players this month, but not in central defence. He hinted that the 22-year-old Zouma is ready to come into his three-man backline for Premier League games should David Luiz, Gary Cahill or Cesar Azpilicueta be injured.

"I don't think we need another central defender," said Conte. "Kurt Zouma is ready to start.

"I'm pleased for him. He's in the starting XI. It's a good opportunity to show me he's in good form.

"His injury was very bad, very bad. We knew Kurt needed more time to recover. But now he's in good shape and ready to play and restart his career."

Batshuayi has been forced to wait for his chance since arriving in a £33 million (S$58 million) move from Marseille at the start of the season, with Conte admitting it has taken the Belgium international, 23, longer than he had hoped to adapt to the rigours of English football.

"Diego is doing very well but playing a lot. For Michy it's a good opportunity to show me his promise," he said. "It's not easy to arrive in England in this league and adapt when he's a striker and young player, because this league is very physical.

"But he's working a lot and I see he's improving and getting the idea about our football.

"It's a good opportunity to show that he deserves to play more in future."

Peterborough, who lie eighth in League One, travel to Stamford Bridge on the back of a good run of form that has brought three wins followed by three draws in their last six matches.

That has lifted the confidence of Grant McCann's men, and the manager insists he will not be asking his side to change their style for the meeting with the Premier League leaders.

"I'm not making changes just because it's Chelsea," he said. "We have nothing to lose so we will try and get between Chelsea's lines, win some corners and get some shots off on goal.

"We will try and play on the front foot, like we do in every game."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


CHELSEA V PETERBOROUGH
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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 08, 2017, with the headline 'Blues youngsters get a chance'. Print Edition | Subscribe