False nine experiment over for Conte

LONDON • Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has confirmed that he will be fielding a striker today, following criticism when he played without a No. 9 against Manchester City last week with Eden Hazard in a false nine position.

Speaking yesterday ahead of the Premier League home game against Crystal Palace, the 48-year-old told a press conference: "Tomorrow for sure we have this option to play with (Olivier) Giroud or (Alvaro) Morata as No. 9.

"It is an important game and we want to try to get three points.

"I trust them and work with them both to bring the best physical form and condition. Morata is coming (back) from a strange injury, he was (out for) a long time. Giroud is in good form now and working every day. I trust a lot in all my players."

Midfielder N'Golo Kante collapsed in training last week but did not suffer any major health concerns afterwards. Conte added that the Frenchman was fine and had been in training the whole week.

He also urged caution against Palace, even though Roy Hodgson's team are fighting relegation.

"They lost two games, the last couple of games, and they deserved more against Spurs and United," Conte added.

"We must pay great attention, we need to get three points and we are playing against a good team with talented players."

Chelsea lost 1-2 to the Eagles in October and have the chance of revenge at Stamford Bridge today.

The Blues will start with the aim of putting a turbulent week behind them with Conte's future under the microscope once more.

The Italian was roundly criticised for his timid tactics at City last week, which saw his side lose by a solitary goal, but never really looked like conjuring up an equaliser with a lacklustre display.

Chelsea are in danger of going four games without victory, with just four wins in their last 15 games in all competitions. They have lost their last two league games to City and Manchester United.

That has left them out of the Champions League qualification places in fifth place - and they will stay there whatever happens today.

Conte has been linked with a summer switch to Paris Saint-Germain amid speculation that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has lost patience with him.

He has, however, dismissed the rumours by saying: "Nothing has changed."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

CHELSEA V CRYSTAL PALACE

Singtel TV Ch102 & StarHub Ch227, tomorrow, 1.30am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2018, with the headline 'False nine experiment over for Conte'. Print Edition | Subscribe