Sergio Aguero injury doesn't change Chelsea plan for City - Antonio Conte
LONDON -- Antonio Conte says Chelsea's preparations to face Manchester City have not been affected by Sergio Aguero's surprise absence following a car accident, and added that he has no problem with allowing his players to go abroad on days off.
City confirmed on Thursday that Aguero had been involved in a crash while a passenger in a taxi en route to the airport in Amsterdam after attending a music concert, and sources told ESPN Sur that the striker could miss up to eight weeks with a fractured rib.
Asked if the news that Aguero will not play at Stamford Bridge on Saturday has forced him to change his plans, Conte replied: "No. But, first of all, I'm sorry for this situation. I hope that his feeling is good. Usually when you have this kind of accident, it's not good. But I think and hope he stays healthy."
Many have voiced surprise that Aguero was allowed out of the UK by City so close to the Chelsea match, but Conte has given his own players similar freedom in the past and has no problem with it.
"Honestly, I'm not worried," he said. "I think that I have players who try to make the best decisions. It's important to understand when there is the room to travel, to go to see a game or for other situations.
"I was a player and when you have your day off, you must take your own responsibility to try and make the best decision for you, the team and the club.
"I like to give responsibility. The players are not kids. They are men. They have family. They have sons and I think it's important to give them the right responsibility. Then, for sure, they have to make the best decisions for themselves, for the club, for everyone."
City remain a serious threat to Chelsea without Aguero. They have scored 21 goals in their first six Premier League matches this season, and Conte also spoke highly of the expansive way in which Pep Guardiola sets up his teams.
"I have great respect for Pep," he added. "I think he's the best and I have great respect for him, for his work. I like to watch his games. Don't forget, every coach tries every day to take more information, new ideas, and then try to elaborate with your style, no? Pep is a really good coach and I follow his games."
Conte was publicly critical of the decision to schedule Chelsea's match against City on Saturday rather than Sunday, ensuring that he could only prepare his team for one day at Cobham after Wednesday's comeback victory over Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.
Asked how many changes he might be forced to make to his team, Conte said: "I don't know. Don't forget, this is the last game of seven games in 21 days, and a really tough and important game after Atletico Madrid.
"It will not be easy to make decisions tomorrow because, in my eyes, there is the last performance against Atletico. Every single player performed really well in this game. But I have to check the physical condition for every single player, and then make the best decision."
Conte did confirm that Danny Drinkwater remains the only injury absentee in his squad, with Alvaro Morata having shaken off a knock sustained against Atletico, while Eden Hazard is also primed to start his second match in three days.
"I think Eden, if he was able to play one game like the Atletico game, it means he's ready now to play with continuity," the Chelsea coach insisted.
David Luiz is unavailable to face City as he serves the final match of a three-game ban, but Conte is confident that academy graduate Andreas Christensen is ready to step up against the Premier League's most formidable attack.
"David is a very important player for us," Conte said. "For sure, he's a big loss. But I think Andreas is playing very well and showing that he's a very good player, playing with great maturity and experience, showing he can play with us. I'm happy for his performances."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.