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Monday, January 29, 2018

Antonio Conte says Chelsea signing striker would not mean Michy Batshuayi leaves

Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte suggested following Sunday’s 3-0 FA Cup win over Newcastle that he wants a new striker – but not at the expense of Michy Batshuayi.
Batshuayi scored twice in the first half and Marcos Alonso netted a fine free-kick as the Blues avoided elimination from a second cup competition in a week after Wednesday’s Carabao Cup semi-final loss at Arsenal.
Chelsea, who will find out their round five opponents on Monday, have been linked with Roma’s Edin Dzeko, while Batshuayi has been the subject of speculation of a loan move to Sevilla and elsewhere.
Conte said: “If you see our squad, we don’t have three, four, five strikers. We have two strikers: (Alvaro) Morata and Batshuayi.
“When you have to play league, Champions League, then FA Cup. If we have also three strikers I think that’s the minimum.
“It doesn’t mean if we take another player Michy has to go on loan, because we have a lot of competitions.
“If the club wants to add players to this squad, or if we want to continue with only two strikers – Morata and Batshuayi – I’d be happy in both cases.
“We have to see what happens during the transfer market.”
Conte, though, suggested he would sanction a move for Batshuayi if he demanded one to boost his hopes of making Belgium’s World Cup squad.
The Blues boss added: “If the club decides to add another player, then, I don’t know if Michy wants to stay, or wants to go on loan.
“In this case it would be a player decision, not my decision. I’m ready to continue to work with these players.
“Today I think I showed that for me the most important thing is the present. It’s not the future.”
On his future, Batshuayi told BT Sport: “When I have a chance I take the chance and I work every day to be here. It’s not for me to decide.”
Batshuayi now has 10 goals this season. Not a bad record, particularly when you consider 14 of his 25 appearances have come off the substitutes’ bench, many in the dying embers of games.
The frustration with Batshuayi centres on his poor hold-up play. Too often he relinquishes possession when an outlet is needed and Eden Hazard has been preferred as a ‘false nine’ at times.
“He has a lot of space for improvement,” Conte added.
Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez was not too despondent with the loss.
Benitez said: “When you play away against Chelsea, you know the difference between the top six and the other teams, it is really difficult.
“We tried and we put them under pressure. The difference in quality in some situations was key.”
Benitez is keen to add quality to his options before Wednesday’s transfer deadline.
“I wanted to do my business by the 15th or the 20th (of January) but we still have time,” Benitez added.
“I will continue working as hard as I’m working now, trying to improve the team.”
Striker Aleksandar Mitrovic was not in the Magpies’ squad, but Benitez was tight-lipped on transfer speculation.
“There were other strikers there,” Benitez said.