Gary Cahill will get Chelsea first-team chances ahead of World Cup - Conte
LONDON -- Antonio Conte indicated that he will give Chelsea captain Gary Cahill the first-team chances he needs to convince Gareth Southgate that he deserves a place in England's World Cup squad.
Cahill was left out of Southgate's selection for friendlies against Netherlands and Italy last month after losing his starting spot at club level to Antonio Rudiger, but has since been restored to the team by Conte and played 90 minutes in each of Chelsea's last four matches in all competitions.
Time is running out for Cahill to get himself back in the England reckoning ahead of Southgate's final squad announcement, but Conte believes his captain's form and pedigree make him worthy of another chance for club and country.
"In this moment he's deserving to play, because he's playing well," Conte said of Cahill. "He's in good physical condition. We are talking about an important player with great experience. He has played big competitions.
"I know that when you have to go to play this competition, the World Cup or European Championships, it's important to have players with great experience because the pressure will become very strong for everyone.
"I think that Gary is deserving to play, and then to have the chance to go and play in the World Cup. But, at the same time, I have always shown great respect for Southgate. I think he's a really good, important manager. He has to make the best decision for the national team. I'm sure he will take the best decision."
Cahill's form has fluctuated this season since succeeding John Terry as Chelsea captain, but Conte praised his defender and the other senior players in his squad for stepping up to fill the void left by the legend's departure on and off the pitch.
"This season has been very, very important for many players to try to take the leadership," Conte added. "It wasn't simple to make this type of substitution with John Terry because we are talking about a great leader, a player with fantastic leadership [qualities]. You have this in your blood.
"I think [Cahill] developed a lot in this year with Chelsea. Now we have three or four players who have to take the responsibility, to try to take this leadership and then help the manager in every moment."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.