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We need fresh faces before I can sell: Conte

 

By Matt McGeechan

Antonio Conte says Chelsea must sign players before any leave.

The head coach has bemoaned the size of his squad, given the Blues are competing in four competitions. With the winter transfer window open, Conte believes Chelsea must recruit before allowing any players to move on.

"Our squad isn't big. It's impossible to send a player on loan or sell a player if we don't take another player," he said.

Chelsea play at Arsenal tonight bidding for a victory to return to second place in the Premier League table ahead of Manchester United.

The Italian side-stepped questions on transfers, with David Luiz still the subject of speculation after playing once since October. Brazil defender Luiz could return in the FA Cup at Norwich on Saturday following a knee injury, but Andreas Christensen is now first choice in the centre of the three-man defence.

Conte would not be drawn on whether Luiz would stay at Chelsea by the closure of the transfer window, speaking generally.

Conte said: "I'm very happy to work with these players, I trust these players. I don't see a problem. But I understand if some are not playing with regularity and want to play with regularity."

Conte says his participation on transfers is limited to making suggestions to director Marina Granovskaia, who leads on recruitment.

He added: "My expectations can be a lot, or not. But the most important thing is my opinion. I try to give my opinion to the club and then the club has to take the best decision.

"I'm only a coach. If the club ask me something about my team, I give my opinion."

Tonight's game is the first of three this month with Arsenal, Chelsea's opponents in the Carabao Cup semi-finals.

And Gunners manager Arsene Wenger has been charged following his conduct in the referee's changing room after Sunday's game against West Brom, the FA have announced.

Wenger was furious with referee Mike Dean, who had awarded West Brom a late penalty at the Hawthorns for a handball by Calum Chambers. Jay Rodriguez converted the spot-kick to rescue a 1-1 draw for the Baggies after a James McClean own goal had earlier given Arsenal the lead.

Wenger has until 6pm on Friday to respond to the charge.

Wenger, meanwhile, has pledged to bring in top-class replacements if Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil decide to leave.

Wenger said they are yet to be contacted by any interested clubs for the pair, who are yet to extend their contracts which expire in the summer, and are now free to speak to foreign clubs.

He said: "We're looking to do some things. When is difficult to say because that does not depend only on us. We are open for an exceptional player. On the other hand it depends if we extend contracts of players who are at the end in June."

Arsenal vs Chelsea

Barclays Premier League

Emirates Stadium, Tonight, 7:45pm

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