Chelsea's N'Golo Kante facing three weeks out - Antonio Conte
LONDON -- N'Golo Kante could be sidelined for three weeks with a hamstring injury while Alvaro Morata and Danny Drinkwater will miss Chelsea's clash with Crystal Palace on Saturday, manager Antonio Conte confirmed on Friday.
Chelsea's injury concerns leave Tiemoue Bakayoko and Cesc Fabregas as Conte's only fit senior options in central midfield, and Conte suggested he could turn to academy youngsters Kyle Scott and Ethan Ampadu to start or deploy defenders further up the pitch in the coming weeks.
Spain striker Morata has been battling to make a swift recovery from a hamstring injury during the international break after limping out of Chelsea's 1-0 loss to Manchester City, while Kante picked up his problem on France duty last week.
"Team news? Bad news," Conte said. "We have three injured players. I hope to have [Morata] very soon, for the game against Roma. Drinkwater is progressing well but is not ready yet. We must have patience with him, with his calf problem.
"We are going to do a scan next week to check Kante's situation, if he's improving. It's a muscular problem, a hamstring problem. It's a big loss for us because you know the importance of Kante in our team. We don't have another player with the same characteristics.
"The previous scan [was] maybe 20, 25 days [out of action]. In this situation we must pay great attention and for this reason we are going to do another scan in one week to understand the situation very well, [to see] if this scan is better than the scan before.
"For sure we're not lucky in this period. In midfield we now have only Bakayoko and Fabregas available and we have to approach seven games in one month.
"For this reason I think in this period we have to find different solutions, to adapt some defenders in midfield or to give opportunities to some young players like Scott and Ampadu to play from the start.
"For sure it will be very difficult to play with Fabregas and Bakayoko for seven games in a row, and also we have to hope no injuries in these games."
David Luiz performed impressively on his one midfield start this season against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley in August, but Conte added that he is reluctant to move the Brazil international out of his normal role in the middle of Chelsea's back three unless he is left with no other choice.
"We're talking also to adapt a player who for me is very important [as a] central defender," Conte said of Luiz. "For me David is one of the best central defenders. If I can I prefer don't change a lot, also because you [could] try and find a solution and you lose something with the defence.
"When I decided to utilise him in midfield against Tottenham we played with three central midfielders. It could be an option if I decide to play with three central midfielders.
"I don't want to change a lot but if there is the necessity I am ready to do this, but also to give an opportunity to young players like Ampadu or Scott."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.