Chelsea's Alvaro Morata will be fit to face Barcelona in UCL - Antonio Conte
LONDON -- Antonio Conte revealed that he is confident Alvaro Morata will be fit to face Barcelona, adding that he plans to give the Spain international more minutes to regain his sharpness in the FA Cup fifth-round tie against Hull City on Friday at Stamford Bridge.
Morata produced a lively 30-minute cameo off the bench in Chelsea's 3-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion on Monday after a month on the sidelines with lingering back pain. He failed to score but assisted Eden Hazard on Chelsea's third goal and forced Ben Foster into several impressive saves.
After the match, Conte voiced his hope that Chelsea had "solved" Morata's back problem and the striker has since continued to train with the rest of the first-team squad at Cobham.
"Alvaro has been training with us regularly, every day," Conte said. "His physical condition is improving. Tomorrow, he will play a part of the game. He will be ready for the game against Barcelona in the Champions League."
Tiemoue Bakayoko, David Luiz and Ross Barkley are all unavailable for the Hull game because of injuries and Conte added that he has "a couple of situations" to check on before finalising his starting XI, with Marcos Alonso unlikely to feature so close to the Barcelona clash after being left out of Chelsea's last two matches as a precaution.
Morata's return does give the Chelsea coach two genuine senior strikers to pick from again as Olivier Giroud earned praise for a battling performance in 60 minutes on the pitch against West Brom.
The Frenchman is likely to lead the line again on Friday.
"In this moment, in every moment, it's very important to have all your players available," Conte added. "In this case, to have two No. 9s in Morata and Giroud ... to have two options is very important for us. For a lot of time [this season], we tried to play with Hazard as a No. 9."
Conte also suggested that he could pick both Morata and Giroud if the situation calls for it.
"I think that, in the future it could happen," he admitted. "If we decide to play with the three midfielders. During the game it can happen.
"But now, I think it's very soon to answer this question. Don't forget that we are playing with the [same] system from last season. In this case, in this system, it would mean Hazard, Pedro and Willian are out."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.