Antonio Conte 'not looking for sympathy' over size of Chelsea squad
LONDON -- Antonio Conte says he is "not looking for sympathy" from other coaches over the size of Chelsea's squad and defended the club's decision to loan out so many players on the fringes of the first team this summer.
Chelsea kick off their Premier League title defence at home to Burnley on Saturday with a squad of 24 players that includes the exiled Diego Costa as well as a significant number of untested academy youngsters and Eden Hazard and Tiemoue Bakayoko, who have both missed the entirety of preseason as they recover from injuries.
Pedro Rodriguez is also unavailable for selection after failing to recover from an ankle knock picked up in Sunday's Community Shield defeat against Arsenal, while Loic Remy is not in Conte's plans and Kenedy and Lewis Baker are expected to leave Stamford Bridge on loan in the coming days.
Those moves will take the number of Chelsea players out on loan to 27, and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger this week claimed that he does not feel sorry for the Premier League champions because they could ease their problems by recalling some of those at other clubs.
Speaking at a news conference to preview the Burnley game, Conte said: "I'm not looking for sympathy of any coaches for this situation. This is my message. The situation is clear. I'm not looking for sympathy of the other coaches.
"If the club decide to send on loan players for their development it's because these players are not ready to play for Chelsea."
Chelsea have signed just four players -- Alvaro Morata, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Antonio Rudiger and Willy Caballero -- in a difficult summer transfer window, but Conte says that he and the club's hierarchy remain on the same page when it comes to player recruitment.
Asked about what his squad needs before the end of August, Conte said: "I'm the coach of this team. My aim is to try to improve my players, to try to improve my team. What happens in the transfer market, the club is trying to do their best.
"My only task is to focus on the pitch, what happens on the pitch, during the training session to work with my players."
Pedro's absence and Chelsea's general shortage of options could force Conte to start Morata alongside Michy Batshuayi against Burnley, though he admitted the Spain international is still some way off being fully adapted to his tactical demands.
"Alvaro is working very well and is improving a lot in these last 10 days, his physical condition," Conte added. "He's starting to understand what I want about him during the game. But for sure he needs time to understand, to adapt to our style of football, above all for a striker.
"Because for me the striker is a really important role and it's very important to understand which is the position that I want during the game. This role is more difficult to adapt than the other roles."
Fellow summer signing Rudiger is available and could make his debut on the right of a back three, with Cesar Azpilicueta shifting to wing-back in order to fill in for the suspended Victor Moses.
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.