Coach hopes Oscar, Mikel departures are the only ones
Coach Antonio Conte hopes he has seen the last of the Chelsea exodus to the lucrative Chinese Super League. Midfielder John Obi Mikel followed hot on the heels of Brazilian playmaker Oscar’s big-money move to Shanghai SIPG when he joined Tianjin TEDA on Friday. Although neither were key players in Conte’s squad this season, the Chelsea coach does not want any more of his players following them. “I hope this offer from China finishes with Mikel and Oscar,” Conte said yesterday. “I think that it’s important now to remain with this squad.” The Italian, who took charge this season, hinted at bringing in reinforcements in the January transfer window, but said the Premier League leader is “not close” to recruiting anyone yet.
He has, however, ruled out bringing in a centre back with France defender Kurt Zouma available again following a long-term knee injury. “I don’t think we need another central defender,” Conte said. Zouma will start tomorrow’s FA Cup third-round match against third-tier Peterborough at Stamford Bridge, as will Belgium striker Michy Batshuayi, who has been given limited opportunities since his move from Marseille in the summer. “I have a good opportunity in this game to see Michy from the start,” Conte said. “I think it’s important. He’s working a lot. I’m seeing that he’s improving. Sunday for him, but also for other players, could be a good opportunity to show me that he deserves to play more.” Chelsea’s run of 13 consecutive league wins ended with a 2-0 defeat at Tottenham on Wednesday and Italian Conte wants a quick response. “One defeat is enough for us now. In every game our mentality must be that we have to try to win every game,” he said. “FA Cup or league (it) doesn’t change. I want always the same mentality, the right mentality, a winning mentality.”
Chelsea’s Oscar (right) eludes a sliding challenge from Derby’s John Eustace during the English FA Cup third-round match between Derby County and Chelsea at the iPro Stadium in Derby, England., January, 2014.