Antonio Conte: If I prioritised making Chelsea players happy, we would be relegated
Antonio Conte has warned his players that he does not care whether or not they are happy, claiming Chelsea would be in danger of being relegated from the Premier League if he pandered to their emotions.
Eden Hazard has completed only one full 90 minutes in his past eight games and is set to be rested when Chelsea face Norwich in the FA Cup third-round replay tonight.
Conte is set to give a rare chance to striker Michy Batshuayi, who is keen to leave Chelsea during this transfer window, and David Luiz, with whom he fell out earlier this season.
Willian and Pedro, who have spent more time on the substitutes' bench than they would have liked, are also expected to come in, but Conte insisted he was not trying to keep anyone happy with his squad rotation.
Asked whether or not Hazard has been happy at being substituted in recent weeks, Conte replied: "I'm the coach. I decide. It's not important if one player is happy or not. Only here [in England] is there this situation. You are worried about whether a player is happy or not. My first task is to do the best for the team and the club. Not to make every player happy.
"Otherwise we'd risk finishing 20th in the table.
"There is always this question about whether I'm worried about making my players happy. No. I'm worried to win."
Player power has been a problem for Chelsea during the Roman Abramovich era, but Conte learned during his own playing career that the best managers do not tolerate it. "Every manager that I have had, one of the things they taught me was it's not important to make players happy," he said. "The most important thing is to win and to try to be honest in your choice [of team selection]."
One player who will be happy is 17-year-old Ethan Ampadu, who will make his third Chelsea start against Norwich, lining up in a three-man defence with Luiz. Conte believes Chelsea have got themselves a rare gem.
"He deserves to play," said Conte. "He's showing in every game that he's ready."
Chelsea have not scored in their past three games and the club are trying to boost Conte's options by signing a striker. The Italian wants a target man, with Andy Carroll the surprise name on the list of targets. Should a striker sign then Batshuayi would be allowed to join Sevilla on loan, but Conte expects the Belgian to be focused. "He's Chelsea's player and has this possibility to show he deserves to play," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
Chelsea v Norwich City, Live, BBC 1, 7.45