Belfast Telegraph

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte: Michy Batshuayi 'ready' to fill in for Diego Costa

Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte says Michy Batshuayi is ready to deputise for suspended striker Diego Costa in the Boxing Day clash with Bournemouth.

Costa has scored 13 times for the Premier League leaders this season but is banned for the visit of the Cherries after accumulating five yellow cards.

Belgium striker Batshuayi was signed from Marseille in the summer for around £33million, but has had limited opportunities.

He has made 10 substitute appearances in the Premier League, his only three starts coming in the EFL Cup.

But Conte insists the 23-year-old is capable of stepping into the considerable void created by Costa's suspension, although the Italian could also tinker with his formation to compensate for the absence of Costa and midfielder N'Golo Kante, also suspended.

"Michy, if I decide to put him in the starting XI, is ready to play," Conte said.

"It's not important to talk and put more pressure on him. He must do what he knows, what we are doing in the training sessions. Only this.

"It's important for Michy to continue to work, to continue to improve. I'm sure his moment will arrive."

Batshuayi has had to be patient for a Premier League opportunity and has been linked with a loan move away as a result.

Conte added: "If Michy is here, it's because he deserves to stay here.

"Michy's attitude, his behaviour, have been fantastic. He wants to improve his quality. Technical quality, physical quality. We are working a lot with him on tactical aspects.

"But he's showing great commitment, great work-rate during the training sessions, great passion.

"For sure, he wants to play and it's not easy when you have in front of you Costa, who is playing fantastic football and scoring a lot of goals."

Conte has not sought to reassure Batshuayi that his chance will come and says he can learn from 28-year-old Costa, despite having different traits.

"I think every single player, every forward, is different for characteristics," Conte added.

"Michy is different if you compare him to Diego. Above all because, first of all, he's a younger player.

"He can improve a lot. For sure, to stay close to Diego, you can learn a lot to improve your experience, to improve your skills.

"But, for sure, to have the training sessions with great players improves you."

Forward Pedro believes the Blues' winning run is more impressive than any he managed while at Barcelona.

A club-record 11 straight victories has seen Chelsea surge six points clear at the top of the table.

Three more would see Antonio Conte's side match Arsenal's Premier League record of 14 successive wins a nd Pedro, who won five LaLiga titles during his spell at the Nou Camp, believes it is harder to win games in England than in Spain.

He told the Daily Telegraph: "It's not new for me, but it's difficult in this league. It's different here. At Barcelona, it's normal to win most of the games and sometimes it's too easy.

"But the Premier League is very competitive and strong, and for this reason, 11 wins is a significant achievement.

"The record is 14, no? Only three wins more, but that will be difficult. Bournemouth are a good team. It's a very good objective to get this record.

"It's very different in Spain. Barca have many opportunities all the time to win matches, which in England is very difficult because the challenges are greater."

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph