Morata could return to ease pain

LONDON • Antonio Conte admits Chelsea are going through a "difficult moment" after the Premier League champions' 2-1 shock defeat at lowly Crystal Palace left his side nine points adrift of leaders Manchester City.

The pain was compounded by a hamstring injury to Victor Moses that will rule the wing-back out of Wednesday's Champions League home group game with Roma.

He joins midfielder N'Golo Kante on the sidelines, but Blues manager Conte is hopeful top scorer Alvaro Morata will be fit to return after sitting out the Palace game with a hamstring problem.

Chelsea, who are fifth in the standings on 13 points, have now lost their last two league games, including the damaging home defeat by Manchester City before the international break.

He said: "When you start a game without Morata and without Kante, it's not simple. Above all if, during the game, another important player in your team has an injury too like Victor Moses.

"I hope to have him back very soon because this moment is very difficult for us. To lose three or four players, it's a big problem."

Questions have been raised about the depth of his squad this season and the Italian added: "The situation is very clear and everyone can see that situation.

"I repeat - my job is to be focused on my work with my players, try and do our best... Don't look for excuses. Through work, find a solution."

Palace scored their first goals of the season after losing their first seven matches, with Cesar Azpilicueta's own goal setting them on their way and Wilfried Zaha tying up the win on the stroke of half-time after Tiemoue Bakayoko had equalised.

Roy Hodgson was relieved to get off the mark, but rejected the suggestion that the bottom club's season had finally taken off.

"In terms of the season starting, I don't embrace that idea," he said. "Sometimes it's a good story - we'd like to read that chapter again - but next Saturday is another story."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2017, with the headline 'Morata could return to ease pain'. Print Edition | Subscribe