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Conte: Starting strongly

As far as Antonio Conte is concerned, the friendlies have now come to an end, and with a trophy at stake he wants his team to overcome Arsenal in Sunday’s Community Shield and start the new season in the best possible way.

The Italian spoke to members of the media at Cobham this afternoon ahead of Sunday’s London derby at Wembley, and began the press conference by explaining which of his players are not available for the game.

‘Only two players, Eden Hazard and Tiemoue Bakayoko, they are working to try to recover very soon but they are not available for Sunday’s game,’ he said.

‘No, it’s too early,’ he added, when asked if the duo would be ready for next week’s Premier League opener against Burnley. ‘We have to wait and be patient. They are improving a lot from their injuries in terms of their physical condition, but they are not ready to start the season.

‘Eden, as you know, has an ankle problem. After surgery it’s important to respect the right time to recover. Bakayoko had surgery in his knee and he is working very well.’

While the Community Shield is officially regarded as a friendly, Conte is eager for his team to get the better of one of our biggest rivals and send out a statement of intent.

‘It was a pity to lose the FA Cup final against Arsenal after a really great season for us,’ he said. ‘Now there is another game, we know very well Arsenal are a strong team. We are expecting a difficult game and we want to start the season with a win.

‘I think the friendlies have ended for us, this is an official game and the first trophy of the season. It’s an important game, for sure.

‘Chelsea and Arsenal are not in the best form because we are in the first part of the season, but we want to play a really good game with high intensity and prepare for the start of the season.’

Conte also spoke about the need to improve the squad between now and when the transfer window closes.

‘For us it’s very important to improve our squad in terms of the numerical aspect because we have a small squad,’ said the Italian. ‘Only one player is not enough to improve our team, we need more.

‘The best way is to try to find the right solution. It’s important the club know my opinion about the number we need. They are trying to do the best for our team and our squad. Now we have to wait and have patience to improve our squad.’

Conte said Victor Moses will start on Sunday, but with the wing-back suspended for the Burnley game, the Blues boss hasn’t yet decided who will replace the Nigerian.

He was also asked about the possibility of Alvaro Morata and Michy Batshuayi playing alongside each other against the Gunners.

‘In this moment it could be an option,’ Conte added. ‘When you have Hazard injured, Pedro injured and only Willian, I don’t see other options. For this reason I tried the combination of the two players. For sure, Alvaro wants to play as a number nine but with his characteristics he could play number 10.

‘I have another day to make the best decision for the starting 11. Alvaro is working very well and trying to reach the best physical condition and go into our idea of football. He needs a bit of time but he is working very well. I don’t know what my decision will be but he is a really good player and a good person.’

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