The Chelsea is set to shuffle his pack with his star midfielder potentially missing for up to four weeks after returning from France duty injured
Antonio Conte will look for his defenders to step forward in the wake of N’Golo Kante’s hamstring injury that could keep the France international out for up to four weeks.
Kante limped out of Les Bleus’ win in Bulgaria last Saturday and, although Chelsea are awaiting the results of a second scan, Conte fears his midfield dynamo will be out for the next seven games.
Speaking ahead of the trip across London to rock-bottom Crystal Palace, the Italian said: “We are going to do a scan next week to check his situation, to see if he’s improving, but for sure he’s got a hamstring problem.
“This is a big loss for us. We know very well the importance of Kante in our team and we don’t have another player with the same characteristics. We only have Tiemoue Bakayoko and Cesc Fabregas [in midfield] and we have to approach seven games in one month.
“We have to find different solutions and adapt some defenders into midfield or give young players opportunities, like [Ethan] Ampadu or [Kyle] Scott.”
Expanding on Kante’s likely absence, Conte added: “The previous scan [showed he would be out] maybe around 20-25 days. You must pay great attention to understand the situation to see if this [second] scan is better than before.
“Injuries can happen during the international break but also in games in the league. [Alvaro] Morata [was injured] against Manchester City and Kante was with the national team. This can happen.
“You have to hope to always have your players in good condition but sometimes you must be prepared if there are injuries.”
Morata will continue to sit it out at Selhurst Park, while Danny Drinkwater has yet to make his Chelsea debut following his close-season switch from Leicester City due to a calf problem.
“I hope to have Morata back very soon, hopefully for the next game against Roma [on Wednesday],” Conte added.
“Danny Drinkwater is progressing well and we must have patience with him.”
Conte says he hopes to have Morata back for Roma but Kante needs to have a scan next week. He says the midfielder is a big loss. #CFC
The centre-half most likely to step into a midfield role is David Luiz, who has performed there previously, but Conte is wary of simply shifting a problem from one area of his team to another.
“We are talking about adapting a player that for me is very important,” he said.
“David Luiz is one of the best central defenders. If I can, I prefer to not change a lot. If you try to find a solution [in midfield] you lose something with the defence.
“When I decided to utilise him in midfield against Tottenham, we played with three central midfielders. That could be an option if I play with three central midfielders but I don’t want to change a lot.”