Marcos Alonso's ban gives Chelsea's Antonio Conte selection headache
LONDON -- Antonio Conte said that Marcos Alonso's suspension has given him a selection problem at wing-back ahead of Chelsea's quarterfinal clash with Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday.
Alonso picked up his fifth yellow card of the season after scoring the only goal in Chelsea's 1-0 win over Southampton on Saturday, meaning he is banned for the Blues' next domestic game in a crowded festive fixture schedule.
That match is Chelsea's cup encounter with Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge and, with Davide Zappacosta struggling with illness and Victor Moses only recently recovered from a serious hamstring injury, Conte admitted that Alonso's absence comes at a bad time.
"For sure I prefer to have all my players available, also because we have to play a quarterfinal against Bournemouth in Carabao Cup," Conte said. "Now there is a problem. Zappacosta is recovering from a bad flu, but it can happen. We must be ready to overcome this type of problem, this difficulty."
Alonso provided the one moment of quality in a contest lacking a little in energy at Stamford Bridge, beating Fraser Forster from 30 yards on the stroke of half-time to secure Chelsea's eighth victory in their last 10 Premier League matches.
After the game, Conte insisted that his players have every reason to be proud of their recent form, even if the historic standard being set by runaway leaders Manchester City is making all of the chasing pack view their own achievements in a less-flattering context.
"In the last 10 games we won eight games, drew only one game against Liverpool away and lost only one game against West Ham," Conte added. "If someone asked me in the next 10 games if I was ready to sign for these results, I'm ready.
"Someone is forgetting this run, because there is a team that is winning every game... At the same time you have to consider that the other teams are trying to do their best and my players in the last 10 games did a good job.
"We must have respect for another team that are doing a fantastic run. In this run I think they are also lucky. For example against Southampton they scored when the game was in the 96th minute. Against Bournemouth the same, and against Huddersfield.
"When you have this type of run also you are lucky, but I have great respect for them because they are doing a fantastic run."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.