Chance for youth as Conte eyes Cup glory

Michy Batshuayi could lead the Chelsea attack in the absence of Alvaro Morata, who is still not fully fit after a back injury.
Michy Batshuayi could lead the Chelsea attack in the absence of Alvaro Morata, who is still not fully fit after a back injury.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Chelsea manager to rest regulars for League Cup quarter-final, Kenedy set for starting role

LONDON • After appearing to concede the Premier League title to leaders Manchester City, Chelsea manager Antonio Conte would be forgiven if he now sets his sights on winning Cup competitions.

However, when asked by reporters what he wants for Christmas prior to the League Cup home quarter-final against Bournemouth today, he simply replied: "I spend my time with my family, parents and brothers. I like to do this.

"Nothing special, staying together is the best gift for me."

Top managers do not often prioritise the League Cup, putting greater emphasis on the FA Cup and the Champions League, and Conte is perhaps no different.

The Italian confirmed that he will rest his usual starters today and give others an opportunity to show their worth.

"Our task is to win the game and reach the semi-final," he said.

"But we need to give opportunities to players who aren't playing regularly.

  • 24

  • Goals Chelsea scored in eight League Cup home games over four seasons, with seven victories, ahead of Bournemouth's visit to Stamford Bridge.

"It's also very difficult for your players to play every game. (N'Golo) Kante's played 10 games in a row. If you do this, you take a great risk with injuries."

He hinted that Kenedy could be given a starting role, praising the 21-year-old Brazilian who can play left-back or on the wing for "giving everything" in training.

"The behaviour and commitment was perfect," he said of the player, who was sent home from the pre-season tour after making derogatory social media posts that sparked outrage in China.

"I have to trust my players. I want to give them a big opportunity in a big game to show they play."

Striker Alvaro Morata is yet to regain full fitness following a back problem suffered in the damaging 0-1 loss at West Ham on Dec 9, and Conte has said that Michy Batshuayi may lead his team's attack.

Conte added: "Bournemouth are a good team and we must be prepared to fight a lot to go through.

"They want to go through just like us. We must be focused. We've prepared very well."

Bournemouth have won only one of their last nine meetings between the teams in all competitions, losing the other eight, the latest coming at home in the league on Oct 28.

Chelsea are also dominant at home in the Cup, winning seven of their last eight home games and scoring 24 goals - statistics that do not bode well for Eddie Howe.

But the Blues have been eliminated three times in their last five quarter-final ties, and the Bournemouth manager will be hoping that those woes will continue.

He is also likely to ring the changes today, with a league trip to City on Saturday and games against resurgent West Ham and Everton towards the end of the year.

"We're stretched due to injuries (to Charlie Daniels and Joshua King) and I have to be careful, managing the squad will be important," he said.

"There will be a certain number of changes as I don't want us to suffer any more injuries."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 20, 2017, with the headline 'Chance for youth as Conte eyes Cup glory'. Print Edition | Subscribe