?Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has confirmed that he could be without up to five players for Sunday’s huge all-London clash with Tottenham at Stamford Bridge, a game that could leave the reigning champions eight points off the top four by the end of the weekend if they lose.
Equally, Chelsea could cut the gap on fourth place Spurs to just two points if they can inflict a first Premier League defeat since 16th December on Mauricio Pochettino’s side. But it will certainly not be easy with several key players ruled out or considered doubts.
Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and centre-back Andreas Christensen both need to be assessed ahead of the game. Conte admits he will have to ‘make the best decision’ over whether the pair are fit enough to perform at the highest level.
“We have to check on a couple of situations in Courtois and Christensen. We will see what their physical condition is and if they are able to play on Sunday against Tottenham,” the Chelsea boss said as he addressed the press on Thursday (Chelseafc.com).
“At the moment, it’s very difficult to tell you with accuracy which is my choice for Sunday. We have to check these situations first,” he added.
“I have to wait three days before making the best decisions for the team. The most important thing is to have the right physical condition to play a good game. I have to make this decision.”
David Luiz, Conte says, won’t be ready to return until ‘at least’ the latter stages of April. Gary Cahill is an option, but the manager’s preference is to have Christensen available.
“David Luiz is out, at least for around another three weeks. He’s recovering from a knee problem. The solution would be to play Cahill but we will try to recover Christensen,” Conte explained.
Highly rated home-grown midfielder Ethan Ampadu is already ruled out for the season and Conte is also without January signing Ross Barkley, who will be playing with the club’s Under-23 team on Saturday as he works his way back to full fitness following a latest injury setback.