Ross Barkley is named in Antonio Conte’s squad for the first time ahead of tomorrow’s game at Brighton.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference on Friday afternoon, the boss reported the new signing from Everton successfully completed a behind-closed-doors friendly against a QPR development side yesterday. He indicated Barkley is likely to be among the subs for the game on the south coast.
‘I don't know if during the game I will decide to give him the chance to play a part of the game or if I want to wait,’ said Conte, who also reported that Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas will not take part tomorrow due to hamstring injuries. He needs to check on another couple of players before making his final selection.
Conte declined to answer questions on media speculation over possible transfer targets out of respect for other clubs and their players, and for his own players whom he did prefer to discuss. He will be without two of those this weekend due to suspension. Pedro and Alvaro Morata were sent off for picking up two yellow cards in the game against Norwich midweek, one card each for simulation. Willian was also cautioned for the same offence.
‘I have watched the three situations against Norwich and the Willian situation was very clear, a big mistake,’ pointed out the Italian. ‘Morata I think there is a foul and then you can decide whether there is a penalty or not, but there is a contact and there is not only diving. For Pedro we have to be honest and accept he is diving. The player is intelligent to understand his mistake.
‘For Morata there was frustration for the first yellow card because the player did not deserve this yellow card, but at the same time he must learn to control himself because the second yellow card was for dissent. I agree with the player on the first yellow card and I do not agree on the second.’
Though there was success on Wednesday with progression to the next round of the FA Cup, it did require a penalty shoot-out with the scores level after extra-time, so tomorrow’s lunchtime is the next opportunity to record our first victory of 2018.
‘For sure we want to try to get three points in every game,’ Conte told reporters. ‘In the last period we drew many times and at same time there is a good aspect because we are unbeaten for 11 games, but for sure we want to get three points and as you know very well, you have to score to win the game. In the last couple of weeks we were also a bit unlucky but at the same time, we were not so accurate in our finishing.’