At his press conference ahead of Sunday’s game against Tottenham, Antonio Conte provided an injury update, including good news regarding Tiemoue Bakayoko, and reemphasised the need for everyone to stay strong and find solutions together.
Injuries and suspensions have left Conte’s squad thin in the opening weeks of the season, but he does not want to use the absent players as justification for any shortcomings in results or a lack of effort on the training ground.
And from what he has seen at Cobham, that has not been the case this week.
‘We are preparing for this game very well,’ Conte began.
‘We must be focused on the pitch, on the game and try to do our best against Tottenham and not find excuses, but only focus on the game.
‘It can happen during a game to receive two red cards and I think a great club like Chelsea must be prepared for this situation.
‘For sure at this moment it’s not simple, it’s not easy but we must be strong to face this situation. I repeat it’s very important not to find an excuse, about this moment. It’s important to continue to work, it’s important everyone gives 150 per cent, and then we can solve the situation.
‘The only words I can tell our fans are these: for sure we are working very hard with the players to have a good season.’
Regarding which players he can call upon for the trip to Wembley, there is the possibility for one new face in the squad.
‘Bakayoko is improving very well,’ Conte revealed. ‘He is not at the top physical condition but I think he could be in contention for the game.
‘The situation is not easy in this moment. At this moment I don’t have other midfielders available. I have to make a difficult decision, but Bakayoko could be in contention for the game against Tottenham, why not.’
With regards to Pedro and Eden Hazard, both recovering from ankle injuries, the boss had mixed news.
‘Hazard is improving but to be fully fit he needs time. We must have patience with him and try to do the best for him. At the moment some players are not 100 per cent fit. Morata also is another player who needs to continue to work and improve and find the right physical condition.
‘My only worry is when you try to put the players back very early, the risk of getting an injury is high. This is my worry. The physical condition could not be 100 per cent but we have to face this situation.
‘About Pedro, today he trained with us and he felt pain in his ankle. I don’t know about Pedro. His situation is very difficult. I don’t know if he is available for the bench on Sunday.’
Conte explained that in the current circumstances his job is to ‘study different options’ and find the best fit for the players available to him, both before games and during them. That could mean a shift in formation or personnel, but whatever happens he is certain his team is ‘ready to play a good game’.
One such possibility would be moving David Luiz to central midfield, a position Chelsea fans have seen him in before.
‘Honestly I prefer David to play as a central defender. We are trying different solutions and working on them. David is a player available to play in different positions and it’s a pleasure for me to have this type of player. Imagine if you had a player who told you he only wanted to play in one role.’
Conte said he had great respect for the work done by Mauricio Pochettino and Tottenham in the past few seasons and a reason they were able to challenge at the top of the table was because they have a solid foundation. It is something he wants to build at Stamford Bridge.
‘We don’t have it now. We need time, Chelsea needs time to work to improve this basis. For this reason, I said this season would be very difficult for us. We started a new process. We have lost a lot of strong players who created the previous basis: John Terry, Mikel, Ivanovic, Drogba...
‘We lost a lot of players in the last few years and now we need to find the right way to build. We must have patience to build something important for the present but above all for the future. Now we don’t have this solid foundation and for this reason we have to work very hard and try to improve our squad.’