Ross Barkley in Chelsea squad to face Brighton - Antonio Conte
LONDON -- Ross Barkley is in line to make his Chelsea debut from the substitutes' bench against Brighton on Saturday, head coach Antonio Conte has confirmed.
The 24-year-old was registered too late to play a part in Wednesday's dramatic FA Cup third round replay win over Norwich City following his £15 million move from Everton, but has been training with the first-team squad at Cobham and scored twice in a behind-closed-doors friendly against QPR on Thursday.
Conte will take a depleted squad to face Brighton due to the one-game suspensions Alvaro Morata and Pedro Rodriguez will serve following their red cards against Norwich, while Cesc Fabregas and Gary Cahill will also miss the trip to the south coast through injury.
"Ross is in a good physical condition," Conte told a news conference of Barkley. "Yesterday he played 70 minutes in a friendly game. Tomorrow he's in the squad. He's coming with us.
"I don't know if during the game I decide to give him the chance to play a part of the game or if I want to wait [to see] if the game doesn't ask for this type of situation. But he's in the squad. He needs to continue to improve, to work with us, in our idea [of football]."
Chelsea's week has been overshadowed by surprise reports linking the club with loan moves for West Ham striker Andy Carroll and Stoke City target man Peter Crouch, but Conte was in no mood to indulge questions about potential January transfer targets.
"It's not right to talk about players of the other team," he insisted. "I'm not interested in it. There is a transfer market in this period and if something happens, you are the first to know the news."
Asked if Chelsea could use a big, physical striker in their squad for the rest of the season, he replied: "In this moment I can talk about my players, about Morata, about [Michy] Batshuayi. It's not right to talk about characteristics of other players."
Morata's dismissal against Norwich took his tally of yellow cards this season to eight. If he receives two more before the second Sunday in April he will earn an automatic two-match ban from the Football Association, but Conte does not believe his striker has a discipline problem.
"For the Norwich game I think the player knows very well his mistake," he said. "There was frustration for the first yellow card because the player didn't deserve this yellow card. If the referee doesn't want to concede the penalty, it's not right to book him.
"But at the same time he must learn to control himself because the second yellow card was for dissent. I agree with the player for the first yellow card but I don't agree for the second."
Asked if Morata's yellow cards might be a product of his lack of goals, Conte replied: "For a striker this situation can happen. For Alvaro this is the first season that he's having a full season, and maybe for him it's the first time to face this type of problems.
"He has to overcome this problem because it's a stupid problem. You can score or not score, but the most important thing is to work for the team."
Chelsea's head coach did admit, however, that Morata's absence will force him to re-think his game plan to face Brighton.
"Morata played only 20 minutes against Norwich," he explained. "He was resting for the game against Brighton. For this reason I have to change the plan. Sometimes you can have a plan to face this busy period, but then there is the game and everything can happen."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.