Alonso in, Bakayoko out against Barcelona, says Chelsea's Conte
LONDON -- Antonio Conte revealed that Marcos Alonso will be fit for Chelsea's clash with Barcelona in the Champions League round of 16, but Tiemoue Bakayoko is out.
Alonso has missed Chelsea's last two Premier League matches and was rested for Friday's 4-0 win over Hull City in the FA Cup fifth round, having sustained a minor hamstring injury followed by a kick to the ankle in training.
Bakayoko, meanwhile, has not been seen since being sent off 30 minutes into a nightmare performance against Watford at Vicarage Road, and is struggling badly for confidence.
With the pair absent, Chelsea warmed up for the visit of Barcelona in style at Stamford Bridge on Friday, with Willian scoring twice while Olivier Giroud and Pedro Rodriguez also found the net and Willy Caballero saved a second-half penalty from David Meyler.
After the match, Conte admitted that the impressive performances he witnessed have left him with "many doubts" about his team selection on Tuesday, but added that the condition of Alonso and Bakayoko have made two key decisions for him.
"Alonso is ready to play," Conte said. "He is fit, but I don't think Bakayoko [will be].
"I'm very happy. Before an important game, against Barcelona, I go to my house with many doubts in my mind, [about] which is the best starting XI to start the game. But it's right to be so. We must take the right time to make the best decision to pick the best XI to start that game.
"We started the game with great concentration and determination. We must be pleased, especially because, in this way, we are in the next round in this competition. The first half was impressive because we scored four goals. The game was very compact.
"In the second half we tried to manage the game. As you know, in England that's very difficult, because anything can happen. But to finish this game and to keep the clean sheet was very important. I'm very happy for Willy Caballero, who has shown he is a great goalkeeper."
Damaging defeats to Bournemouth and Watford had left Conte's job in serious doubt ahead of this week, but convincing victories over West Brom and Hull City have improved the atmosphere and Conte urged his players to build on their positive momentum against Barcelona.
"For sure, to play against Barcelona is a great challenge for us," he added. "But, at the same time, I think this type of game must give us great enthusiasm. We must be excited to play this type of game, especially against this team. I consider Barcelona one of the best teams in the world.
"On one side, you must be a bit sad to play against them. But, on the other hand, you must be excited. You have to try and compete with them at this level. It won't be easy, for sure, but we must have the right confidence and then we'll see what happens.
"The last two wins were very important for us and our confidence. To win a game in the league, and then go to the next round of the FA Cup, was very important, and to prepare in the right way for the Barcelona game.
"We are talking about a massive game. But now we must be confident. The game starts 0-0, and then we have to try to move the game in the right direction."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.