Friday 20 October 2017

Chelsea look to keep momentum ahead of FA Cup final with Arsenal

Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte, right, may show sentiment in the final two home games of the Blues career of John Terry, left
Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte, right, may show sentiment in the final two home games of the Blues career of John Terry, left

Antonio Conte faces another challenge in the final two home games for Premier League winners Chelsea - balancing sentiment with planning for the FA Cup final.

Chelsea, who clinched the title with Friday's 1-0 win at West Brom, play Watford on Monday night and relegated Sunderland on May 21, before the May 27 final with Arsenal.

John Terry will hope to lift a 16th and final major trophy with Chelsea at Wembley and will have bid farewell to Stamford Bridge by then.

The club captain has said potential goodbyes before, but there will be no fourth successive one-year contract extension this summer.

The 36-year-old has 715 appearances and could make three more, if he features in the remaining three games at the end of his 22 years of service.

Head coach Conte sees Terry as understudy to David Luiz in the centre of his three-man defence. And Luiz knows Chelsea must maintain momentum.

"If I say I'm not thinking about winning the double, I am a liar," Luiz said on chelseafc.com.

"Of course we think about this, but we need to think day by day, rest well, keep ourselves very good in these next two games to have a top performance against Arsenal.

"It will be a difficult game against a fantastic team, so we need to be at a high level."

Conte will try to balance preparations for Wembley and keeping his leading players sharp with rewarding those who have had less game time this term.

Terry was an unused substitute at West Brom and has not started in the Premier League since the September 11 draw with Swansea.

His only starts subsequently came in the EFL Cup loss at West Ham in October and the FA Cup early rounds with Peterborough - in which he was sent off for Chelsea's only red card this season - Brentford and Wolves.

Terry has been on the bench 11 times since the Molineux clash, appearing twice in the final minutes. Twice he was omitted from the matchday squad altogether.

The former England captain has received plenty of praise from Conte, who has welcomed the professionalism shown and the lack of complaints at limited match action.

Conte has solved the Terry conundrum that has long puzzled Chelsea bosses, with the defender yet to reveal where he will play next season. It could even be against his beloved Blues if he stays in the Premier League.

Michy Batshuayi could get his first Premier League start against Watford after scoring the title-clinching goal on his 18th substitute appearance.

And N'Golo Kante could return after missing out on a Premier League appearance for a third time this season.

The first was when the midfielder was suspended on Boxing Day against Bournemouth, the second when nursing a thigh injury against Middlesbrough and the third when he was an unused substitute at The Hawthorns.

The Watford fixture was rearranged from March after Chelsea progressed to play Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter-final.

Kante scored that day as Conte reverted to his first-choice line-up in the cup for the first time this season.

The visit of Watford may also offer a chance for some of Nathaniel Chalobah, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ola Aina to show Conte there is no need for swathes of new recruits for next season's return to the Champions League.

Press Association

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