Strong for the semi

Antonio Conte has confirmed that Eden Hazard is fit and in contention for tomorrow night’s Carabao Cup semi-final first leg with Arsenal.

We welcome the Gunners to Stamford Bridge, with the second leg taking place at the Emirates at the end of the month, with the victors facing one of Manchester City or Bristol City in the first major cup final of the season.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference at Cobham, Antonio confirmed that Hazard is back fit after missing the FA Cup draw with Norwich at the weekend, although we will not see a Chelsea debut for Ross Barkley, with the game coming too soon for the recent addition.

‘Eden is in a good physical condition,’ the Italian told us. ‘He has recovered well from a little problem in his calf. He is ready and is in contention for the game.

‘Nobody else has any problems. Tomorrow night is too soon for Ross [Barkley] but we must be pleased because his physical condition is good and he has started train with us and understand our football.

‘We must be pleased. He needs a bit of time to work on the physical and tactical aspect, but his condition is very good. He is a good guy and he has shown great desire to work and to help us.’

The boss was asked further on what changes he may make to his side, with the game coming so soon after the weekend’s FA Cup clash with Norwich.

Antonio did hint that he is likely to rotate his starting line-up, but insisted that he will be picking a strong team for the tie.

‘In every game we try to make a strong team, whether you play in the league, the FA Cup or the Carabao Cup,’ he said. 

‘When you play every three games, it’s important to make rotations but at the same time, your team must be very strong. Otherwise, you risk dropping in this trophy. It’s a very important game for us, a semi-final and the chance to win a trophy. We deserve to be here and it will be a tough game against Arsenal.

‘From the start of the season we have tried to find a good balance, to give the right opportunity and chances to everyone. I think every one of my players deserves the chance to play.

‘It is important for us. We played in the Carabao Cup with young players but at the same time, it was a strong team. Our run in this competition hasn’t been easy. In the fourth round we played, Everton, the fifth round was against Bournemouth and now in the semi-final we play Arsenal.

‘But we must be very happy because we have reached the semi-final. We want to try to do our best, to reach the final.’

Tomorrow night’s clash at the Bridge represents the second of three fixtures against our London neighbours this month alone, with our recent draw at the Emirates proving an entertaining affair.

Conte spoke about that game during his press conference and stated that he expects another open and attacking encounter.

‘I think the game against Arsenal was a good game,’ he explained. ‘I think our performance that day was very good but we know very well which are the points of strength of this Arsenal team.

‘We know where they like to win points from. I think we try to study the game in the right way and we want to play another good game, to try to win the game.

‘But we must pay great attention because we are playing a good team in Arsenal, one of the top six teams in England.’