Chelsea's plan B in Morata's absence

Referee Lee Mason showing Alvaro Morata the yellow card for kicking the ball away as Bournemouth attempted to restart the game quickly, after the Chelsea striker's stoppage-time goal in the Blues' 2-1 League Cup win in midweek.
Referee Lee Mason showing Alvaro Morata the yellow card for kicking the ball away as Bournemouth attempted to restart the game quickly, after the Chelsea striker's stoppage-time goal in the Blues' 2-1 League Cup win in midweek.PHOTO: REUTERS

With his top scorer banned, Conte is likely to use Hazard as a false No. 9 against Everton

LONDON • Antonio Conte conceded that Alvaro Morata has to learn from his bizarre yellow card that rules him out of Chelsea's trip to Everton today.

The striker was booked after scoring the stoppage-time winner in the midweek League Cup quarter-final 2-1 victory over Bournemouth that set up a semi-final meeting with Arsenal.

The Spain international, who had come off the bench, initially stuck the ball under his shirt in a gesture to his pregnant wife. But he earned the caution for kicking the ball away as Bournemouth attempted to restart the game quickly.

It was his fifth booking of the season, earning the forward a one-game ban.

"It's a pity. But we have to accept it," the Chelsea manager said.

"We have to accept the decision and try, at the same time in the future, to pay great attention."

Conte will now have to decide how best to replace his side's leading scorer with 11 goals from all competitions. Michy Batshuayi is the squad's only other recognised central striker but the Belgian failed to impress after being handed a rare start this week.

Previously, Conte has preferred to fill the gap by employing Eden Hazard as a false No. 9 and he is expected to do that again today.

"For sure, Morata should have played against Everton," said the Chelsea boss. "He would have started the game, for sure. But now I have to prepare a different plan.

"I have different options. I have a day to make the best decision ahead of the Everton game. At training everyone was in good form, and I have time to make a decision."

CHELSEA'S ABILITY TO SWITCH

They play a different way (without Morata). They play Hazard up front... They are a little like Liverpool, it's their interchange of movement we have to be wary of.

SAM ALLARDYCE, Everton's manager, on how Chelsea will play without Morata.

Chelsea remain 14 points adrift of leaders Manchester City in third place and the priority is to maintain the four-point gap to fourth place.

"It would be very important to get three points, but we know very well that in the last five games, Everton won four games," Conte added.

"They are in a good moment of form. They changed the coach and are having good results. For this reason, we must pay great attention on Saturday."

Everton have picked up 13 points from 15 available since Sam Allardyce agreed to become their manager last month. That run has lifted the club to ninth, with 11 league goals scored and only two conceded in that time.

But Allardyce is also mindful that the champions are enjoying a decent spell themselves.

"They have only lost one in eight. They are in good form," he told a press conference yesterday.

"(Conte)has talked about fatigue, which we all talked about this time of year. Fatigue can be overridden by mental strength.

"We have got to play our best. They play a different way (without Morata). They play Hazard up front... They are a little like Liverpool, it's their interchange of movement we have to be wary of."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 23, 2017, with the headline 'Chelsea's plan B in Morata's absence'. Print Edition | Subscribe