herald

Thursday 14 December 2017

Conte seeks Costa fix

Suspended Chelsea striker presents a headache for boss

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte must find a way to replace Diego Costa for the St Stephen’s Day clash at home to Bournemouth. Photo: PA
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte must find a way to replace Diego Costa for the St Stephen’s Day clash at home to Bournemouth. Photo: PA

Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte is taking time to find a solution to replace Diego Costa.

Costa, scorer of 13 goals as Chelsea top the Premier League table by six points, is suspended for the St Stephen's Day clash with Bournemouth.

And Conte is considering tinkering with the 3-4-3 formation which has seen his side win a club record 11 straight Premier League games to compensate for the unavailability of Costa.

Michy Batshuayi could be a straight replacement or Conte could deploy two central forwards, amending his 3-4-3 formation.

"I have four days to evaluate the situation and to try to find the best solution for the team," Conte said.

"For sure Diego is an important player for us, but in these days we are working to find the right solution.

"In the squad I can have different solutions for his substitution.

"We are working to find the right solution with the right men in the right place to try to continue this way, to try to continue to win."

N'Golo Kante will also serve a one-match ban for accumulating five yellow cards and the France midfielder, a Premier League champion with Leicester last season, is also difficult to replace.

"For this reason, this is a good test for us, because we play this game without two players very important for our team," Conte added.

"It's important in this test to evaluate the group situation in our squad, also to give the possibility to play some player that until now is not playing a lot or to find another solution.

"What my eye sees in this game is very important."

Break

Chelsea players had three days off this week; Costa and Kante were given an additional day's break.

Conte wanted to refresh minds as well as bodies with the time off, but now has told his players to be unrelenting in their winning sequence.

"The most important thing is to recover, not only with your body, above all with your head," he added.

Arsenal hold the record of 14 successive wins in the Premier League era, with Chelsea able to equal Manchester United's 12 with victory over the Cherries. Both the Gunners and United's winning runs spanned two seasons.

And Conte won 12 straight Serie A games with Juventus in 2013-14, when they won 33 of 38 games.

But given Chelsea lost at home to Bournemouth last season in the final weeks of Jose Mourinho's reign, Conte is taking nothing for granted.

"I don't like the stats," Conte added.

"I prefer to be focused every game and to think, to take three points, to increase our table (tally).

"In the past when we won all these games (with Juventus) the championship was very good for us. I think now it's different.

"This league there are many teams that can fight for the Champions League, for the title, for the Europa League.

"For this reason it's important to continue in this way, not stop.

"We all know that it won't be easy, but we have to try to continue this way, with all our strength."

Meanwhile, Conte has expressed regret at Steve Holland's decision to leave but understands his wish to be England assistant boss.

Holland was appointed assistant to England manager Gareth Southgate on Wednesday. He will continue to work at Chelsea until the end of the season and then leave Stamford Bridge.

The 46-year-old has been at Chelsea since 2009 and a constant in the coaching set-up despite the managerial turnover.

"It's a pity to lose him," Conte said.

"But also I can understand him for this choice, because this type of situation can arrive only once in life, to be a coach or assistant coach of your national team or your country.

"He's helping me a lot in my experience in Chelsea because he has great experience with this club."

Conte declined to say whether Holland would be replaced, preferring to focus on the task at hand with Chelsea six points clear at the top of the Premier League ahead of Monday's clash with Bournemouth.

"Now, I think also for Steve, (it is important) to be focused on this season, because this season is very important for us and Steve is a very good professional," Conte added.

"It's important to be focused on the present. I have a great staff, a fantastic staff. There is a great spirit. The future, we'll see."

Chelsea's record goal scorer Frank Lampard (above) was at the club's Surrey training base this week. And Conte was asked whether he saw the 38-year-old, currently without a club after leaving Major League Soccer's New York City FC, as a future coach.

Conte said: "We didn't talk about this. Frank wants to continue to play football.

"I saw him in good form, in good shape, to continue to play football. Then for his future I think it's better to ask him."

Promoted articles

Entertainment News