Morata won’t be thrown in at the deep end, says coach Conte
LONDON: Chelsea’s record signing Alvaro Morata is unlikely to start the champions’ Premier League opener against Burnley today because he has not adjusted to their style, Blues manager Antonio Conte said.
Chelsea paid what British media said was an initial £58 million for the former Real Madrid striker as replacement for out-of-favour Diego Costa, who has been told he can leave the club.
Last week, Morata came on as a 74th-minute substitute for Michy Batshuayi in the Community Shield penalty shootout defeat to Arsenal at Wembley and Conte said the 24-year-old is still not ready.
“Alvaro is working well but he needs time to understand and adapt to our style of football, above all because he’s a striker. He is starting to understand what I want from him during games,” Conte said.
The Italian said that another of his signings, Antonio Rudiger, “could start” against Burnley in place of the suspended Victor Moses.
“He’s a good player, strong, good personality, technique,” Conte said.
Pedro is also unavailable after suffering an ankle injury against Arsenal.
Conte said he believed Chelsea, who have also signed midfielder Tiemoue Bakayako from Monaco, are a stronger side than last season.
“I am pleased because we are working well with this team and this group of players. I think we are better than last season.
“At the start of this season it’s simple to tell that in this league there are six top teams who should be fighting for the title. But you know very well that there are surprises.”
Conte said there was “no news” on Costa, who is expected to leave in the transfer window.
Manchester City’s unfamiliarity with Brighton and Hove Albion can help Chris Hughton’s promoted side start their campaign with an upset win, midfielder Solly March has said.
Brighton, who returned the top tier after a 34-year absence by finishing second in the Championship, last hosted City in a 2008 League Cup tie.
“It’s going to be a challenge for everybody but we’ll take it in our stride, compete and we’ll surprise a few people,” March said. “City are probably not going to know as much about us as we do about them. It’s going to be tough for them... Our fans get behind us and they’re going to step it up even more because they know we need them even more. We’re raring to go.”
City have spent around £ 200 million to strengthen their squad in the close-season with other title contenders including Chelsea and Manchester United also spending heavily to bolster their teams.
March believes that the high transfer fees are a reflection of the quality in the league but says Brighton are not intimidated by bigger teams or worried by the general consensus that they will be relegated after just one season.
“Some of the transfer fees are crazy but it shows how good these players are. I hope I can prove I’m just as good as them. But there’s no fear,” he added.
Stoke City are close to signing defender Bruno Martins Indi but the deal may not be completed in time for him to feature at Everton tonight, manager Mark Hughes has said.
The 25- year- old Netherlands international is hoping to make a permanent switch from Porto after making 35 league appearances for Stoke during a successful loan spell last season.
“My understanding is it’s (the signing) very close,” Hughes told a news conference yesterday. “All being well, he should be with us today at some point and hopefully we will get that done.”
Hughes also said the club turned down an enquiry from Joe Allen’s former side Swansea City for the midfielder.
“They just asked would we be willing to allow him to leave and we said no,” Hughes added. “I think we have to respect that they came and did that and because of the answer they got you’d like to think they will respect our position.”
Stoke have lost several experienced players in the current transfer window, including midfielder Glenn Whelan, forward Marko Arnautovic and defender Phil Bardsley.
Hughes has recruited Darren Fletcher, Eric Maxim Choupo- Moting and Kurt Zouma on loan from Chelsea but is still hoping to boost the squad further. – Reuters
NEW KID ON THE BLOCK: Chelsea’s Alvaro Morata.