With Willian granted compassionate leave to miss Chelsea’s Premier League showdown against Leicester, Antonio Conte has a crust-earning decision to make.
It’s not a simple choice for the under-fire Italian with plenty of candidates jostling for the opportunity to make a rare start.
Pedro and Oscar, both late introductions from the bench in the 2-0 KCOM Stadium triumph before the international break, are certainly among the most suitable on paper to slip into Willian’s wide-forward role.
Lengthy transatlantic travels could harm Oscar’s chances, though, while Pedro continues to confound his Barcelona form in a blue shirt.
Instead, in Willian’s unexpected absence there’s a player who’s been in the headlines recently who surely warrants a chance to stake a claim.
Upon signing for a cool £33m this summer, Michy Batshuayi could rightly have assumed that by mid-October he would’ve amassed more than the measly 53 minutes of Premier League action currently under his belt.
Despite scoring from the bench in his second Chelsea appearance in the league at Watford – followed up by an EFL Cup double against Bristol Rovers at Stamford Bridge – three more late cameos have been the 23-year-old’s top-flight lot since then.
Such limited involvement had even prompted some murmurings from the Batshuayi camp entering the international break. Yet, the required change of tone from the former Marseille ace has been timely, with latest widespread reports featuring quotes about his desires to fight for his place at Chelsea.
It seems that a man in Conte’s oddly precarious position should heed this battle cry and throw Batshuayi in from the start against the Foxes.
Clearly Diego Costa is immovable as the main striker in his present fettle, yet the Belgian has the pace that comes with youth to operate on the flanks while his optimum position is occupied.
For a player who scored 17 Ligue 1 goals for a well-below par Les Olympiens side in 2015/16 and, has since shot to prominence with three strikes for Belgium from his first seven caps, it seems like Chelsea could be missing a trick.
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