Premier League

Antonio Conte’s Sudden Selection Dilemmas

 • by Adam Newson
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Fourth in the Premier League. Top of their Champions League group. And into the last eight of the Carabao Cup. Not bad for a Chelsea side that only a week ago was in crisis.

The Blues’ 4-2 victory over Watford at the weekend, coupled with the 2-1 midweek win over Everton, has lifted the storm clouds that were gathering above Stamford Bridge. So a trip to the seaside is deserved.

Antonio Conte takes his squad to Bournemouth on Saturday knowing a win, and results going their way elsewhere, could move Chelsea to within two points of second. Momentum would also be building ahead of a trip to Italy to face Roma.

There is good news for the Blues, too, with Conte admitting N’Golo Kanté is closing in on a return to action following a hamstring injury.

“At this moment we have to find the strength to keep calm and find the right moment to put him in the team,” the Italian said on Wednesday. “It will be very easy now to tell him to play, but we must find the best solution for him. He’s ready.”

And with Danny Drinkwater now fit following an ankle injury, not to mention Ethan Amapdu looking at ease against Premier League opposition in midweek, Chelsea suddenly looked well stocked in central midfield.

The only injury problem Conte has is at right wing-back with first-choice Victor Moses ruled out with a hamstring injury. However, Davide Zappacosta, barring his failure to take a throw-in correctly, looked sharp against Everton and should keep his place at the Vitality.

The Chelsea side that takes to the field against Bournemouth is likely to look very different to the one that helped the Blues progress to the quarter finals of the Carabao Cup.

Eden Hazard, David Luiz, Marcos Alonso, César Azpilicueta and Tiemoué Bakayoko were all given the night off on Wednesday but are expected to return to the starting XI.

Michy Batshuayi should drop back down to the bench with Álvaro Morata leading the Blues attack, however, Conte was impressed with the Belgian’s performance against Everton and believes the striker is getting to grips with his demands.

Conte said: “Last season was very difficult for him, but it was also difficult for me. Now I think he’s ready to start, he’s ready to come on during the game and have a good impact. It’s important to know I can count on him.”

So who should Conte bring into his starting XI against the Cherries, who sit 19th in the table and have won only two of the nine Premier League games?

Our unique algorithm has predicted the Chelsea side it believes is most likely to start.

Football Whispers uses data to predict the starting line-ups for sides by accounting for a number of different factors, including injuries, suspensions, the statistical likelihood to play, the match the competition is played, the player’s previous performance and the style of the opposition.

But you can also give it a go yourself. Just click ‘create your own’ on the line-up at the top of the page and pick the XI players you would choose, and you can also see their stats once you’ve picked them.

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