Conte rejigs Chelsea line-up after Kante blow
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