THREE STRIKERS IS THE MINIMUM – CONTE DROPS TRANSFER HINT AFTER CHELSEA WIN

The manager is keen to increase his options in the penalty area – but despite a strong Batshuayi display, he declined to confirm the striker’s future

Antonio Conte wants Chelsea to sign an additional striker before the January transfer window closes on Wednesday.

With Alvaro Morata out of form, the Blues have been linked with a string of strikers, including Roma’s Edin Dzeko, Andy Carroll of West Ham and even Burnley’s Ashley Barnes.

Michy Batshuayi struck a brace as Chelsea moved into the fifth round of the FA Cup with a 3-0 defeat of Newcastle United on Sunday.

But despite Batshuayi taking his tally in all competitions this season to 10 – two fewer than Morata – Conte still wants another forward to arrive at Stamford Bridge.

“If you see our squad, we don’t have three, four or five strikers, we have two,” said Conte.

“Morata is out, or sometimes I play with [Eden] Hazard. He is a different striker, but sometimes I play in this way. The striker has to work for the team in the best way, he has improved a lot in this way.

“I don’t know what will happen [with Batshuayi], but when you have to play in the Champions League and FA Cup, three strikers is the minimum. Then we have to see what will happen in the transfer market. We are talking about another player, I don’t know if we can.”

Although Batshuayi provided a pair of first-half goals, Conte held back on praising the Belgian forward.

“I don’t know if it was his best game, but it was important for him and the team,” said the Italian. “To score is important for the confidence, we are talking about a young player with a great potential.

“Today I showed that for me the most important thing is the present, not the future. Otherwise I would have taken other choices.

“Michy, we are talking about a player I have worked with for one year and a half, a powerful player and has a lot of room for improvement. My task is to work with him and every single player.

“There is a World Cup and every player wants to play to try to push for the competition. This is another situation. If the club decides to add another player, I don’t know if Michy wants to stay or go on loan.

“This is a player decision, not mine. I want to continue to work with my players.”

Although Newcastle were not in the game after Batshuayi’s brace put Chelsea in control, Rafael Benitez felt the visitors deserved more from their performance in the opening 45 minutes.

“We had chances, in the first half we were better, but in the second half they were a lot better,” said Benitez.

“You have to play against Chelsea away, the difference between the top six is difficult. We tried to put them under pressure, but the key moments went against us.”

Like Conte, Benitez will be hoping for additions before the transfer deadline, with Kenedy – on loan from Chelsea – the only arrival so far in January.

“We have chances,” added the Spaniard. “It is not ideal, but I have some days and we believe we can do something.”

 

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