Tammy Abraham a chance for Conte to enhance his status as Chelsea great
Chelsea are tantalisingly close to securing the Premier League title. Three wins from their final four games will guarantee glory for the Blues irrespective of how second-place Tottenham fare, and with the FA Cup final to look forward to as well, winning the Double is also a possibility for Antonio Conte's side.
While it remains to be seen what silverware Conte delivers at the end of his first season in charge at Stamford Bridge, the Italian has already guided Chelsea back into Europe. With a return to Champions League football guaranteed, the boss will be planning ahead to enhance his squad so they are capable of winning the competition without compromising their chances of domestic triumphs.
While Conte will currently be reviewing every position to ensure he has strength in depth and cover to cater for fixture congestion, fatigue and injury, it is the striker roles that will be under the closest scrutiny.
Diego Costa's future remains mired in uncertainty. With 19 league goals to his name so far this season, the 28-year old has remained the focal point of Chelsea's attack. Despite barren spells, January's head-turning China transfer saga and the drama of being dropped following a spat with a fitness coach, Conte has continually preferred the Brazil-born Spain international to Michy Batshuayi, whose £33 million acquisition last summer looks increasingly like an expensive folly.
Irrespective of whether one or both of these players leaves in the summer, Conte needs reinforcements up front. Everton's Romelu Lukaku, Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez and Alvaro Morata of Real Madrid have been continually linked with a move to Chelsea -- and while these transfers are conceivable, the market is competitive and other clubs will also be chasing their signatures.
An increasingly compelling option for Conte to consider is Tammy Abraham. A product of Chelsea's academy setup, 19-year old Abraham has had a stellar season on loan at Bristol City, scoring 26 goals in all competitions for the Championship side, prowess that has brought with it a bevy of admiring glances from clubs keen to secure his services next season.
Brighton and Hove Albion, newly promoted to the Premier League, are rumoured to be interested in signing Abraham. Of course there is no question of Chelsea selling the player, any move would be another loan and the English top flight is the best place for the striker to further his experience if that is to be gained away from Stamford Bridge.
Conte's use of Victor Moses this season, coupled with the recall of Nathan Ake, from Bournemouth is proof enough the Chelsea manager will deploy loan players who fit his preferred 3-4-3 system. Moses has been outstanding at right wing-back, while Ake put in an assured display deputising for Gary Cahill in the FA Cup semifinal triumph over Tottenham.
While it's true both Moses, 26, and Ake, 22, have more experience than Abraham (20 in October) there is a shining example of an on-loan Blues player who proved he could score goals in the Premier League at a similar age -- Romelu Lukaku.
Lukaku, who originally signed for Chelsea from Anderlecht in August 2011, was 19 when he was loaned to West Bromwich Albion a year later. The striker scored on his debut, and didn't stop. A 17-goal haul for the Baggies was followed by an equally impressive loan spell with Everton for whom he found the net 16 times. A £28 million move to Goodison Park followed in July 2014, as did more goals. Still only 23, Lukaku has found the net a further 70 times in all competitions for Everton and is proof that if you're good enough, you're old enough. Chelsea would possibly have to pay as much as £70m to re-sign the Belgium international. Abraham, who entered the Blues' system at Under-8 level, would cost nothing.
Further proof, if it is needed, that outrageous talent should be blooded can be found at White Hart Lane where Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino has made the most of the prodigious goal-scoring skills of Dele Alli and Harry Kane. Both players cut their teeth on loan before enjoying breakthrough seasons as 19-year-olds at the Lane, and Spurs' rise to become a Premier League force owes much to Pochettino's belief in Alli and Kane. The fans there love him for it.
Chelsea supporters, meanwhile, are still waiting for someone to follow in John Terry's footsteps and come through the club's youth system to establish themselves in the first team.
Abraham could be that player. It's Conte's call. Were the Bridge boss to successfully utilise the striker next season, given all his other qualities as a winner and a man of the people, fans of the London club would seriously begin to consider him as Chelsea's greatest ever manager.
Mark Worrall is one of ESPN FC's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @gate17marco