Conte re­jigs Chelsea line-up af­ter Kante blow

New Straits Times - - Sport -

LON­DON: An­to­nio Conte must work out how to over­come the loss of mid­fielder N’Golo Kante when Chelsea at­tempt to get their Pre­mier League ti­tle de­fence back on track at Crys­tal Palace.

Conte’s side signed off for the in­ter­na­tional break with a dis­ap­point­ing home de­feat by Manch­ester City that left the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons in fourth place, six points adrift of Pep Guardi­ola’s Pre­mier League lead­ers.

And the Blues suf­fered an­other blow last week when Kante picked up a ham­string in­jury while on duty with France.

The mid­fielder limped out of the 1-0 vic­tory against Bul­garia, and af­ter re­turn­ing to Stam­ford Bridge to be ex­am­ined by club doc­tors, is now ex­pected to be out for the rest of the month.

Kante, 26, has been an ev­er­p­re­sent dur­ing the league cam­paign so far.

While Conte will be con­fi­dent his side can beat bot­tom club Palace, the former Le­ices­ter City man’s ab­sence will be felt dur­ing the com­ing weeks when Chelsea will ex­pect to make progress in the league and in back-to-back Cham­pi­ons League group meet­ings with Roma.

Conte is also likely to be with­out Al­varo Mo­rata, who is suf­fer­ing from a ham­string prob­lem picked up in the City de­feat.

The for­ward’s in­jury is not as bad as first feared but he is not ex­pected to be risked at Sel­hurst Park to­day.

The loss of two in­flu­en­tial fig­ures will place pres­sure on Conte’s squad.

The man­ager was be­lieved to have been left frus­trated by his club’s fail­ure to bring in more play­ers dur­ing the trans­fer win­dow.

And Conte’s de­ci­sion to ini­tially re­place Mo­rata with Wil­lian, a mid­fielder, against City raised doubts about the man­ager’s faith in Michy Bat­shuayi, his only other recog­nised se­nior striker.

Bat­shuayi, who scored a mem­o­rable win­ning goal in the Cham­pi­ons League visit to Atletico Madrid, should start against Palace but Conte has also spo­ken of the pos­si­bil­ity of em­ploy­ing Eden Hazard as a false cen­tre­for­ward. AFP

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