Chelsea are set to close out the tour of Asia, and thus the official and rather brief pre-season fixture list with a match against Inter Milan on Saturday. That will be followed by the Community Shield next weekend (a glorified friendly, for all intents and purposes … unless you win, then it’s something to celebrate for a few seconds) and the season proper the weekend after that.
So, not much time left to get several key players up to speed, which is probably why Conte’s not deviating much from the plan seen in the first two pre-season games.
“Yes, I think it could be a good option to see Morata from the start. It’s the last game before the match against Arsenal so for me, it’s very important to find a good fit as soon as possible. For this reason we will play with the best starting 11.”
New arrival Antonio Rüdiger is set to make an appearance from the bench, presumably along the usual spate of second-half changes in favor of youth and backups.
Whether any of them will stick around beyond pre-season remains well up in the air — “if a young player is good enough, strong enough and ready, then why not?”, says Conte — though the fact that neither Eden Hazard nor Tiemoué Bakayoko are expected to play a big part for a while yet (Hazard largely due to his injury and Bakayoko due to his less severe injury but completely unfamiliarity with Conte’s system) could yet prove beneficial for the likes of Boga, Musonda, or Baker.
“It’s difficult to say because when you arrive from a bad injury, after surgery, it’s not easy to programme an exact date to come back. They are recovering very well and everybody knows the importance of these players for us. Every single player must be in the best form to play, otherwise we risk putting the player in a bad position and then to have damage for the team.”
“It’s very important to have the players work with me and understand my idea of football. Bakayoko, for example, doesn’t know anything about my idea of football and he will need a bit of time to adapt and understand. This is the great difficulty for a coach who has an idea of football and wants to give the team an identity. It’s the same now for Morata and Rudiger. If the player arrives as soon as possible it’s easier for me.”
Any new arrival now will unfortunately be facing a similar situation, though hopefully just like last season, when Marcos Alonso and David Luiz became key members of the squad, any new arrival before the end of the transfer window will be able to produce similar positive impact eventually.