Antonio Conte admits he may be forced to select defenders in Chelsea’s midfield after revealing N’Golo Kante will be out for around three weeks with a hamstring injury.
Kante limped off in the first half of France’s 1-0 win over Bulgaria last Saturday and is not expected to return until mid-November, while Danny Drinkwater is still afflicted by the calf problem that has prevented him from making his Blues debut.
Left with Cesc Fabregas and Tiemoue Bakayoko as his only fit central midfielders for a busy phase of the season, which starts with Saturday’s Premier League trip to Crystal Palace, Conte could push the likes of David Luiz forward or turn to youngsters Kyle Scott or Ethan Ampadu.
“Kante is going to have a scan next week to check if his hamstring problem is improving. From the previous scan, maybe he’ll be out for around 20 days,” Chelsea boss Conte said.
“In this situation you have to pay great attention and for this reason we are going to do another scan after one week to understand the situation very well. Maybe this scan will be better than the one before.
“For sure it’s a problem and a big loss for us because we know very well the importance of Kante to our team and we don’t have another player with the same characteristic. Drinkwater is progressing well but is not ready yet. We must have patience with his calf problem.”
He added: “We have to approach these seven games without Kante and at this moment in time without Drinkwater.
“For sure we are not lucky in this period because of all our midfielder we only have Bakayoko and Fabregas available. We have to approach seven games in one month and need to find a different solution by adapting defenders into midfielders or by giving opportunities to young players like Scott or Ampadu to play from the start.
“It will be very difficult play Fabregas and Bakayoko for seven games in a row and we must hope we don’t get any more injuries during this time.”
Conte was able to deliver a more promising bulletin on Alvaro Morata, who missed international duty with Spain due to a hamstring injury sustained against Manchester City on September 30, but is expected to return on Wednesday.
“I hope to have Morata back very soon. I hope for the next game against Roma,” Conte said.
Conte has distanced himself from an interview given in Italy late last month in which his Chelsea future was placed in doubt.
“I only said that one day in the future I’d like to go back to Italy. One day in the future, but I know very well my position,” Conte said.
“I have two years on my contract with Chelsea left to go and I’m happy to work for this club, with my players and I like to work with my players.”