Monday 16 July 2018

Conte admits he's faced with 'thin' resources for Roma visit

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte. Photo: Reuters
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte. Photo: Reuters

Matt Law

There was a sense of symmetry in the fact that Antonio Conte was asked about Chelsea's failed pursuit of Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan in between complaining that his squad is too "thin" to cope with injuries.

Conte once again made no secret of his frustration over Chelsea's failure to add more players to the squad that won last season's Premier League title ahead of the Blues' attempt to bounce back from two successive defeats when they face Roma in the Champions League tonight.

Alvaro Morata will return to lead Chelsea's attack, but Conte is without N'Golo Kante, Victor Moses and Danny Drinkwater and may well deploy David Luiz as an extra midfielder to try to help negate the effect of the spate of injuries.

Prior to formally starting work as Chelsea head coach, Conte met Nainggolan in Rome with the intention of making the midfielder his first signing.

"In the past, yes, we tried to buy him," confirmed Conte.

"But now Nainggolan is Roma's player. He's a really good player - for me, one of the best midfielders. But he's an opponent."

straightforward Conte hoped that signing Nainggolan would be relatively straightforward, given Roma have to sell one of their best players each season and the money he believed was available at Chelsea.

But Conte had not been prepared for the fact Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia likes to drive a hard bargain and the Blues failed with two bids of £23m and £25m.

Any hope that Nainggolan would push for the move himself was tempered by the fact that Chelsea were surprised to discover the £100,000-a-week wages they were offering were not significantly more that the Belgian was already earning at Roma.

Nainggolan was happy at a club where his cigarette smoking and busy nightlife is tolerated and that again proved to be the case when Manchester United failed with their bid to sign the 29-year-old this summer.

So, having allowed potential moves to Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford pass him by, Nainggolan will line up for Roma against Chelsea.

"The situation is difficult," said Conte.

"We have to play every three days and it's not simple. In this moment, we are thin and we have to play always the same players. Sometimes the players need to rest instead."

Conte, though, insisted that he is not taking any chances over Morata by starting him, having resisted the urge to rush him back against Crystal Palace.

Chelsea v AS Roma,

Live, eir Sport 1/BT Sport 3, 7.45

Telegraph.co.uk

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