All Chelsea players except Danny Drinkwater ( calf injury) and David Luiz ( suspension) are available for selection for tomorrow’s clash at Stoke, as Blues boss Antonio Conte revealed in a press conference ahead of the game today:
“All players are available for tomorrow except Drinkwater. Bakayoko is fit, it was a minor accident, he is fit”
Speaking about Diego Costa, who is completing his move back to Atletico Madrid in these days after being AWOL all summer:
“We want to thank him for what he did with this club, we wish him all the best for the future,” Conte said in a diplomatic way.
When he was asked if the relationship with the Spanish striker was really broken, he continued:
“I’m not interested to continue speaking about this issue, it’s not important, I’m very happy to work with these players.”
Diego Costa won the title with Conte and Chelsea last season, a trophy he won also three seasons ago with Mourinho at the same club, speaking about Costa’s contribution to latest Blues’ trophies, the Italian manager said:
“In this moment I’m not interested to talk about the past, it’s not important, the past stay there, if you did well in the past is ok, I think we have to think for the future of this club.”
“Don’t forget that we won together last season, for sure we want to thank him for his effort with Chelsea, not only last season but all the period at Chelsea.”
Asked if now there will be more chance for Michy Batshuayi, who was Diego Costa’s substitute last season, Conte said:
“He’s one of the players in our squad and last season he didn’t play a lot but he worked very hard, now he is more prepared to face this season and he will have the right chance.”
Conte then spoke about the difficult season ahead for his team, with four major competitions to face:
“You must work and try to fight for every competition, we are Chelsea and we have to try to win every game, our target is to do our best every day, week and month in this season.
The Blues will play Stoke City at Britannia Stadium tomorrow, a field where both Manchester United and Arsenal weren’t able to win this season, with the Red Devils drawing 2-2 two weeks ago and losing the only two points in these first five Premier League games, and the Gunners losing 1-0 back in August:
“For sure it will be a really tough game, they won against Arsenal and drew against Man United. We must pay attention tomorrow, we are preparing very well this game, this is the first one of three tough games in seven days, with Atletico’s game in Champions League coming next Wednesday and Manchester City in the next weekend, so this will be a good test for us.”
Speaking about Eden Hazard, who started his first game with Chelsea after his broken ankle injury last Wednesday against Nottingham Forest in the Carabao Cup, Conte said:
“I am pleased for Eden because in the last game he played very well, he played with a good intensity, now his injury is overcome, now we have to play three games, there is the chance to try to pick him for these games.”
The Italian boss then went on speaking about the difficulty to face a season with so many important competitions to face:
“The most important thing for us is to go game by game, tomorrow it will be a really tough game [at Stoke], we must prepare this game in all situations, tactical, physical, discipline, we are working very well, I am please for the commitment and behavior of my players. Sometimes it can happen [a player of ours gets] a red card.
“This season for sure this will be a great challenge for us, to face all the competitions with our squad, to be ready to play, tomorrow Stoke, then we have to play on Wednesday with Atletico, then Man City. It won’t be easy to have three tough games in a very very close time.
“I think that my team and I always thought to work hard. We were focused on the pitch, this is the right way if you want to build something important.
“We must know the competition, it’s not easy to find the right balance in every moment to give the chance to every player, it’s normal to do rotation, to face three competitions in one season is not easy, it’s not easy to manage players that don’t play regularly. Every competition is important, I don’t think some teams start certain competitions thinking is better to lose or go out, we want to win in all four competitions, it’s normal sometimes you pay something in these competitions, when you have big rotations.
Charly Musonda jr. and Kenedy started and scored against Forest in the Carabao Cup game, using the chance Conte gave them:
“Don’t forget that we have been working with Musonda and Kenedy since last season, since January, I am pleased to work with them, they are two players that got a good prospect, they have to continue very hard in this way.
“In the last match I felt a great atmosphere in the changing room, the right link, this is the right way because the season is very long and for sure I have to give them the opportunity to show me they are learning and improving, probably in the two national cups.”
Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma is playing at Stoke City in a season-long loan after recovering from a knee ligaments injury:
“For Kurt this season is very important to play,” Conte claimed.
“After a really bad injury – because it was not a normal ACL injury, it was REALLY bad. He’s playing very well, this season for him is very important, he can improve, he can find the best fit, I’m pleased for him and I hope to see him tomorrow to say ‘hello’ to him.”
The decision to send him on loan was taken both by Conte and the club, as the manager confirmed:
“Don’t forget that every decision I take, I take it with the club. It’s always important to know this, but in this specific case it was important to send him on loan for this season to play regularly”