London (AFP) – Antonio Conte has warned David Luiz he faces a fight to win back his Chelsea place after the Brazil defender was dropped for the 1-0 win over Manchester United.
Luiz paid the price for some sloppy performances as Blues boss Conte left him out of the squad at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
The former Paris Saint Germain star, one of the key players in Chelsea’s title triumph last term, watched from the stands as Andreas Christensen, Cesar Azpilicueta and Gary Cahill filled the central defensive positions for the champions.
That trio easily kept United striker Romelu Lukaku and his team-mates at bay as Alvaro Morata’s 55th minute header sealed a vital victory.
Conte had been prompted to ditch Luiz following the midweek Champions League loss at Roma.
But, having told an television interviewer after the United game that he didn’t know if the defender had a future at Chelsea, when he faced the written press, he only told Luiz he wouldn’t be granted an immediate recall.
“It’s very simple, the coach has to make the best decision for the team. Tonight the best decision was to play (Andreas) Christensen and have (Ethan) Ampadu on the bench,” Conte said.
“I decided this way tonight, maybe I can decide a different way in the future or I can continue the same way.”
Conte’s decision to axe Luiz was as much a warning to the rest of the squad to improve their performances as an individual attack on the centre-back.
The Italian’s message was received as Chelsea gave a commanding performance to secure their third successive league win and stay within nine points of leaders Manchester City.
“I must take the best decision for the club, not a single player. It is only a tactical decision. It’s normal,” Conte said.
“This can happen to every one of my players if I see they are not in good form. I have to make important decisions.”
Conte’s own future had been in question last week after demanding Blues owner Roman Abramovich made one of his infrequent visits to the club’s training ground.
Reportedly struggling to stop his players complaining about his intense training regime, Conte badly needed a restorative victory and he was relieved to see Chelsea respond to his demands for more intensity.
– Passion play –
“We played with great energy and great passion. I saw a lot of positive things,” he said.