Conte: Priorities, possibilities and bright futures

Antonio Conte discussed his striking options at his press conference today as well as some of the young players who could be involved against Hull City.

The FA Cup fifth round tie at Stamford Bridge tomorrow night precedes games against Barcelona and the two Manchester clubs, and despite the enormity of those fixtures, Conte insisted the FA Cup remains one of his ‘three priorities for the rest of the season’.

He will have to do without the services of David Luiz, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Ross Barkley for tomorrow’s game, and the boss added there are a couple more players he needs to check on before choosing his line-up.

One player who Conte confirmed would feature at some point is Alvaro Morata, fresh from a lively cameo off the bench in the win over West Brom.

‘Now he is training with us every day and his physical condition is improving,’ Conte reported. ‘Tomorrow he will play a part of the game and he will be ready for the game against Barcelona.

‘Alvaro is a player with a good responsibility and good maturity. Competition is good for the team. A great team must have competition in every position. For us, Giroud is a good option. He’s very strong, he’s a powerful player and he can help us for the rest of the season.

‘At this moment it’s very important to have all your players available. To have two number nines, Morata and Giroud, two options, is very important for us. Remember for a lot of the time we tried to play with Hazard as a number nine.’

Conte was then asked if his two strikers could play up front together.

‘In the future, yeah, it could happen if we decide to play with three midfielders, but now it is very soon to answer this question, because we are playing with the system from last season. In this case it would mean Hazard, Pedro and Willian would be out.’

In the last round of the FA Cup, the victory over Newcastle, Conte handed a Chelsea debut to Callum Hudson-Odoi. Ethan Ampadu was also involved that afternoon, and the boss spoke about the two 17-year-olds and some of his other bright prospects.

‘For me it’s not difficult to predict a brilliant future for Ampadu and Hudson-Odoi. In the past, in the Carabao Cup and also the FA Cup, I gave them the chance to play. We are talking about two of the best players in our Academy.

‘We also have [Dujon] Sterling, and [Trevoh] Chalobah, and [Kyle] Scott, who are coming with us for tomorrow’s game. Chelsea’s future is very brilliant with these young players.’

Conte also commented on the news Hull midfielder Ryan Mason announced his retirement this week following a head injury sustained at Stamford Bridge in the last meeting between the sides, back in January 2017.

‘For sure we are very sad about this bad news. He showed great strength to recover, to try to play again, and it’s a pity to stop your career at such a young age.

‘We are very sad. The players and the club wish him and his family the best for the present and the best for the future.’