Antonio Conte is set to take a huge gamble with reports suggesting he is set to rest Alvaro Morata and Eden Hazard for Chelsea’s opening Champions League game against Qarabag on Tuesday evening.
Michy Batshuayi is set to take the place of Morata, whilst new signing Davide Zappacosta is set to start ahead of Hazard.
Morata has made a fast start to life at Chelsea following his £60m move from Real Madrid, scoring three goals in his first four league games for the Blues.
Hazard on the other hand has only managed 17 minutes of football so far this season due to injury struggles, and will likely be rested ahead of a key Premier League clash with Arsenal just five days later.
Speaking ahead of Chelsea’s Champions League clash, Conte told the Telegraph: “Eden is in the squad and is working very well towards the best physical condition, but I think he needs a bit more time to continue to improve and to not to take stupid risks with him. Now he’s available and will be on the bench.
“Alvaro’s playing very well, scoring and he is totally involved in our style of football, and improving a lot. But don’t forget he played the whole game with Spain and at Leicester. I have to check and then to make the best decision.
“It is normal when you play seven games in 21 days that it is necessary to rotate, but I am very calm. The English teams have difficulties because the league is very tough here. In the past, before the Champions League, I rested players. But in England it is very difficult to do this. You risk a lot.”
When asked if he will be taking a big risk by leaving out key players like Morata and Hazard, Conte added: “I think when you make the decision there is always a risk. The risk could be to play with the same players I did against Leicester and then it would be why didn’t you change the team? This is our job.”
Conte has had two Champions League campaigns as a manager with Juventus. The first ended in a quarter-final defeat to eventual winners Bayern Munich in 2013, and in the following season, his Juve side failed to even qualify for the knockout stages. To add insult to injury, since Conte left the club, Juventus have been to two Champions League finals in three seasons.
He will be hoping to show his credentials as a manager this campaign, and after going a season without European football, Chelsea will also be looking to show their critics they are worthy of a place in Europe’s top club competition amongst some of the best clubs in the world.