Monday 11 December 2017

Cahill blow hits Blues' Wembley build-up

Conte sweating ahead of Spurs semi-final as centre-back hospitalised with mystery illness

Gary Cahill is a doubt for Chelsea’s Cup semi-final with Tottenham due to a mystery illness. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire
Gary Cahill is a doubt for Chelsea’s Cup semi-final with Tottenham due to a mystery illness. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire

Matt Law

Chelsea's preparations for tomorrow's FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham Hotspur have been severely disrupted by Gary Cahill spending two nights in hospital with a mystery illness.

It is understood that Cahill was admitted to hospital on Tuesday after training and was released only yesterday, following treatment and tests, putting his participation at Wembley in doubt.

Head coach Antonio Conte will now have to decide whether he can risk him. Kurt Zouma, John Terry - who has confirmed he will leave Chelsea at the end of the season - and Nathan Ake are on standby.

Cahill started to feel unwell on Monday, the day after playing in Chelsea's Premier League defeat by Manchester United in which Conte's plans had been disrupted by illness and injury.

Marcos Alonso missed the game with a stomach bug; Diego Costa and Victor Moses played with the same problem, and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was absent having injured an ankle in a basketball promotional shoot.

Chelsea did not comment on Cahill's illness, but it is not linked to the bug that afflicted Alonso, Costa and Moses. He was passed fit to train on Tuesday, but was taken to hospital after his temperature rocketed and was kept in for tests.

Cahill's illness is the last thing Conte needs as Chelsea look to bounce back against Spurs.

With only one day of full training left ahead of the semi-final, Conte will have to assess whether Cahill, who has captained Chelsea for most of this season, can face Spurs.

Zouma started the defeat by United in Alonso's absence and also lined up against Manchester City this month, but was taken off at half-time.

Terry has not made an appearance since the FA Cup victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers in February, while Ake has barely featured since being recalled from his loan at Bournemouth.


As well as a place in the final being at stake, both clubs have the chance to land a big psychological blow in the title race. Spurs have closed the gap on Chelsea to four points and could put more pressure on Conte and his leaders.

But Chelsea could reassert their authority, and the game's significance has clearly not been lost on Conte.

Promotional work has been put off until the end of the season and Conte has stressed there must be no distractions during the run-in.

While Conte waits on Cahill, optimism is growing that Courtois will be fit. The Belgian has trained this week and his injured ankle is being assessed daily.

Despite the difficulties facing Conte, counterpart Mauricio Pochettino has claimed Chelsea start favourites.

The Argentinian is waiting to lift his first trophy as a manager, while his Tottenham squad have only a handful of winners' medals between them.

That is in contrast to a Chelsea team who have won numerous trophies at club and international level, and are managed by Conte, who won three Serie A titles while in charge of Juventus.

"If there's a favourite, it's Chelsea, top of the Premier League, with experienced players and the manager they have," said Pochettino.

"We are talking about the team who in the last five years won European competitions, World Cups, a manager who won the title in Italy, they're more experienced.

"But we're in a good moment, too. We're hungry and to challenge this team is important for Tottenham. But it's important to enjoy the game.

"It's a very important competition and we are fighting the best team in England."

Despite the fact the winner will still have to face either Manchester City or Arsenal to lift the Cup, Pochettino has labelled the clash against Chelsea "a final".

"Saturday is a semi-final in the Cup, but it's a final because if you don't win, you go home and forget it," said Pochettino. "

We must show it's a final from the first moment, being aggressive and trying to play under our philosophy and mentality and compete. To have the opportunity to play a semi-final against one of the best teams in Europe, it doesn't happen often. It's very exciting."(© Daily Telegraph, London)

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