The extent of N’Golo Kante’s hamstring injury will become clearer on Friday when Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte speaks ahead of the Premier League clash at Crystal Palace.
Chelsea declined to comment on reports midfielder Kante, who came off in the first half of France’s 1-0 win over Bulgaria last Saturday, could be out for the rest of October.
The health of Kante and Alvaro Morata is sure to be on the agenda at Friday’s pre-match media conference. Striker Morata missed international duty with Spain with a hamstring injury sustained against Manchester City on September 30, but after initial fears of a long lay-off he then targeted the Palace contest.
It is more realistic that, if fit, Morata will be kept in reserve for next Wednesday’s Champions League tie at home to Roma, where the Blues will be seeking a third win from three Group C games. That could give striker Michy Batshuayi, who has five goals this season, a chance to impress at Selhurst Park.
There could be good news for Chelsea, too. The start of Danny Drinkwater’s Stamford Bridge career has been disrupted by a calf injury following his deadline-day arrival from Leicester.
Conte said the England midfielder may come into contention following the international break, so a debut may be near.
Whether it comes at Palace or against Roma remains to be seen. It is more likely Tiemoue Bakayoko and Cesc Fabregas will be deployed in midfield from the start, but defenders Andreas Christensen and David Luiz – back following suspension – are alternative options.
Although any length of absence for Kante would come as a blow, it would be softened if Drinkwater is passed fit to feature.
And the fixture schedule in the next few weeks is favourable for the Blues, who are seeking to respond from the loss to City. It was their second defeat of the season following the opening-day defeat to Burnley.
Premier League fixtures with Watford and at Bournemouth sandwich a Carabao Cup fourth-round tie against Everton. More challenging clashes follow as Chelsea go to Roma on October 31 and host Manchester United on November 5.