Conte banks on Terry to halt slide
CHELSEA icon John Terry looks primed to be thrown straight back into action today against struggling Hull in a bid to end a run of two successive Premier League defeats.
Both losses to Liverpool and Arsenal have been since Terry damaged ankle ligaments but having returned to training this week and with England central defender Gary Cahill out of form the 35-year-old club captain is needed more than ever.
Terry, who looked to have ended his Chelsea career at the end of last season only to accept a year long contract, has quickly emerged as a central figure in Conte’s plans after the Italian missed out on his main defensive targets during the recent transfer window.
The arrival of David Luiz and Marcos Alonso on transfer deadline day at least bolstered the defensive numbers but neither player has made a significant impact since then.
Luiz’s partnership with Cahill in central defence has looked anything but convincing.
Cahill in particular was guilty of an error in Arsenal’s 3-0 victory which confirmed the scale of the task confronting Conte as he attempts to revive the club.
The England defender is likely to make way for Terry for a game that has grown in significance ahead of back to back meetings with champions Leicester and Manchester United.
Already the head coach has spoken of the difficulties of improving the confidence of a side who finished mid-table last season.
And while the focus has been trained on problems at the back, the manner of the Arsenal defeat also raised questions about other players with midfielder N’Golo Kante’s lack of form identified as a growing concern.
“When you want to win you must have a good balance when you attack and when you defend,” said Conte.
“I think this is the right way if you want to win. It’s important to work together in defensive situations and in offensive situations. We must work together. We can improve a lot and it’s important to understand this and try to work together.”
Pre-season relegation favourites Hu l l pos te d backto-back Premier League wins at the outset of the campaign, but they have struggled since that encouraging start and are aiming to arrest a slump in form which has seen them take one point from the last 12. They have conceded nine goals in their last two games, heavy defeats by Arsenal and Liverpool, as they go in search of a first victory against Chelsea in almost 28 years, a winless run covering the sides’ last 12 meetings.
Uncertainty over the future of caretaker manager Mike Phelan, who after almost a fortnight of deliberation is yet to accept an offer to take the role full-time, and ongoing talks to sell the club have played a part in the downturn in results for the 14th-placed Tigers.
Ryan Mason is set to make his full home debut following a club record £10 million move from Tottenham Hotspur last month.
“We’ve shown what we’re capable of already this season, and it’s up to us to reproduce that kind of form again,” said the 25-year-old.
“It’s another massive game on home soil, and we want to respond. Our home form is going to be important for the rest of the season, we know that.”