Conte defends Chelsea team selection v Everton as Courtois laments lack of "big guy"

Posted Tuesday, December 26, 2017 by

Conte defends Chelsea team selection v Everton as Courtois laments lack of

Antonio Conte has defended his decision not to start Michy Batshuayi in Chelsea's 0-0 draw with Everton on Saturday – despite the suggestion from one of his own players that a "big guy" had been needed to spearhead the attack.

The Blues headed to Goodison Park without their top-scorer, Alvaro Morata, after the Spaniard picked up his fifth domestic yellow card of the season for his celebration against Bournemouth.

Conte opted not to go with Batshuayi for the Everton game – though the 24-year-old played 20 minutes at the end – after he started the Belgian in the midweek Carabao Cup fixture.

Batshuayi was unable to make an impact in that game and eventually replaced by Morata, who managed to score a dramatic late winner in the 90th minute to ensure the Blues progressed to the semi-final.

With new Everton manager Sam Allardyce playing a characteristic deep line, Chelsea – without a traditional striker – were unable to break the deadlock. The Londoners instead played Willian, Pedro and Eden Hazard.

With Arsenal and Liverpool having drawn on Friday, Chelsea missed the chance to go six points clear of Jurgen Klopp's fourth-placed side.

"There's nothing to explain," Conte, according to Football.London, said in his post-match press conference when asked about his starting line-up.

"I decided to play with Hazard, Willian and Pedro. It's not the first time."

Referring to a foot injury sustained by Batshuayi in mid-November, Conte continued: "We've played this way many times this season. Don't forget that Michy started many games at the start of the season and now he's coming back from injury.

"He played for 75 minutes against Bournemouth. I'm happy with the commitment of my players. We tried to do our best and sometimes it's enough."

Allardyce has not yet lost with his Everton side since taking over on the last day of November. He has presided over five league games, winning three and drawing two, and has impressed with his form against the 'big six' – able to leave Anfield with a point as Wayne Rooney struck home with a late penalty late in the second half.

"Sometimes you find this type of situation where it's a pity to drop points against Everton," added Conte.

"We played very well. You can drop points against Everton and it's normal. You play your way against a really good team.

"I think we deserved three points with this type of performance."

"We're not happy we didn't create"

Chelsea goalkeeper Courtois commented on the personnel up top in Conte's XI after the game.

The Belgian goalkeeper lamented the fact that his side were unable to create as many chances as they should have – suggesting the addition of a player such as his compatriot, Batshuayi, would have made a difference.

"It's not easy when a team falls back, I think we could've had more shots on target but we didn't have a big guy up front despite lots of crosses into the box," Courtois told Sky Sports post-match, during their coverage of Saturday's early kick-off.

"We concentrated hard on keeping the clean sheet, which is a good thing from today of course, but we're not happy we didn't create the chances to score."

Chelsea next face Brighton at home, with Morata available for selection.



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