LONDON (Reuters) - Chelsea manager Antonio Conte says that he hopes to be able to select midfielder N’Golo Kante for the Champions League clash against Roma on Tuesday.
Kante picked up a hamstring injury on international duty with France earlier this month and has missed Chelsea’s previous five matches, including the 3-3 draw at home to Roma 11 days ago.
Chelsea sit top of Group C with seven points and can guarantee a place in the last-16 with a win in the Italian capital, but Conte said he will not risk Kante if the influential Frenchman is not fully fit.
“He (Kante) could be ready,” the Italian told a news conference. “I know very well the importance of this player. I want to be sure he is ready. I hope to have him in this game, but I prefer to not take this type of risk. If he is ready, he plays.”
The draw with Roma at Stamford Bridge came after back-to-back Premier League defeats that have left the defending champions nine points adrift of table toppers Manchester City.
Subsequent wins in the league against Watford and Bournemouth and a League Cup triumph over Everton have stabilised Chelsea’s form, providing what Conte admitted was a necessary boost to his players’ morale.
“It was a good win (1-0 at Bournemouth on Saturday) for our confidence, a good win before another tough game against Roma in the Champions League,” he added.
“A win was very important to give continuity to the win against Watford, and Everton in the (League) Cup, and now to prepare in the best way possible way for Roma.”
Alvaro Morata is expected to start on Tuesday, despite going four games without a goal since returning from a hamstring injury sustained in the home defeat to Manchester City last month.
However, Conte was confident that the Spaniard would add to his seven goal tally in due course.
“I am happy for his commitment, his desire and his will to fight,” Conte said. “For sure he can do better, but don’t forget Morata is recovering from a muscular problem.
“When you have this type of problem you need a bit of time to come back in the best physical condition.”
Reporting by Matt Westby; Editing by Christian Radnedge