London (AFP) – Antonio Conte has told any of his Chelsea players unhappy with a lack of game time that they should be grateful to play for the reigning Premier League champions.
Willian and David Luiz have been out of Conte’s first XI of late and the Chelsea boss is preparing to rotate his options throughout a busy December and January.
Brazil playmaker Willian came off the substitutes’ bench to score the equaliser in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Liverpool, when Luiz was an unused substitute.
The defender, who lost his place to Andreas Christensen, is now out of Wednesday’s home match against Swansea with a knee injury.
“My players must be happy to play for Chelsea,” Conte said. “They must be happy if they start the game or stay on the bench and come on. I have clever players to understand this situation, to accept this situation.
“When you are in a great team you have to accept this. At the same time you must be happy to stay in a great team.”
Conte had been asked about Willian, who was linked with Manchester United last summer and has not started in the Premier League since the October loss at Crystal Palace.
But the Italian’s response also referred to Eden Hazard and Pedro, who have also served time among the substitutes this season.
“Every game I have to try to make the best decision and try to protect every player,” Conte added.
“I’d like to start every game with the best players but at the same time this is not possible. This is not possible, otherwise I don’t protect them. It’s not easy to leave (out) great players to rest, but I have to do this.”
Chelsea trail leaders Manchester City by 11 points after 13 games ahead of the Swansea clash.
Right wing-back Victor Moses could start, while striker Michy Batshuayi (ankle), forward Charly Musonda (knee) and the left-sided Kenedy (undisclosed) are still out.
200+ Channels With Sports & News
- Starting price: $33/mo. for fubo Latino Package
- Watch Premier League, World Cup, Euro 2024 & more
- Includes NBC, USA, FOX, ESPN, CBSSN & more
Live & On Demand TV Streaming
- Price: $69.99/mo. for Entertainment package
- Watch World Cup, Euro 2024 & MLS
- Includes ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 + local channels
Many Sports & ESPN Originals
- Price: $6.99/mo. (or get ESPN+, Hulu & Disney+ for $13.99/mo.)
- Features Bundesliga, LaLiga, Championship, & more
- Also includes daily ESPN FC news & highlights show
2,000+ soccer games per year
- Price: $4.99/mo
- Features Champions League, Serie A, Europa League & NWSL
- Includes CBS, Star Trek & CBS Sports HQ
175 Premier League Games & PL TV
- Starting price: $4.99/mo. for Peacock Premium
- Watch 175 exclusive EPL games per season
- Includes Premier League TV channel plus movies, TV shows & more
- Bale heading to MLS with LAFC move: reports
- Where to find Austin FC vs. FC Dallas on US TV
- Nominate best soccer coverage across video, audio & written word
- Forest sign Nigeria striker Awoniyi from Union Berlin
- Where to find River Plate vs. Lanús on US TV
- Where to find USWNT vs. Colombia on US TV
- World Cup tickets on sale and in high demand
- Euro hosts England thrash reigning champions Netherlands in friendly
- Man City agree deal for Leeds midfielder Phillips: reports
- Chelsea favorites to land Neymar if Brazilian departs PSG