London (AFP) – Antonio Conte made an FA Cup selection gamble as the Chelsea manager left Diego Costa and Eden Hazard out of the starting line-up for Saturday’s semi-final against Tottenham.
With Premier League leaders Chelsea playing a crucial fixture against Southampton on Tuesday, Conte opted to rest star striker Costa and influential playmaker Hazard.
Brazilian winger Willian and Belgian forward Michy Batshuayi were drafted in for the Wembley showdown, with Hazard and Costa on the bench.
“I took this decision about our starting 11. It is part of the season, whenever we play any game, it is important to have a player in your mind and make a decision,” Conte said.
“You risk in the same way if you start with Diego or Eden or they come on. I try to make the best decision.”
Chelsea defender Gary Cahill missed out after needing hospital treatment for an illness earlier this week, but Conte didn’t hand John Terry a recall in the week the veteran confirmed he will leave at the end of the season.
Nathan Ake was preferred to Terry in Chelsea’s three-man defence, while Thibaut Courtois returning in goal after missing last weekend’s loss at Manchester United with an ankle injury.
In contrast, Tottenham were virtually at full strength even though they are only four points behind Chelsea in the league and play Crystal Palace on Wednesday.
Their only significant change saw Kieran Trippier selected at right back ahead of Kyle Walker.
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