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  • By Paul Lagan

Conte: Barkley to make FA Cup bow for the Blues

Antonio Conte. Photo by Paul Lagan

Ross Barkley will make his Chelsea debut at some point during Wednesday’s FA Cup reply against Norwich City.

Barkley, a £15million signing from Everton has recovered from his long-term injury and is training with the players. Antonio Conte is confident the midfielder is ready.

He said: “I think Ross Barkley is working very well with us on the tactical and physical aspect. Against Norwich, he could be ready to start on the bench and then to play a part of the game. For sure this is a good signing for us. He is a young player but with great potentiality.

Barkley would be an asset to start the game given the fact Conte believes so many of his players are tired. He subbed creative midfielders Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas in the 0-0 draw with Leicester on Saturday.

“For sure every game I try to make the best decision for the team and on Saturday, it was right to make this decision,” he said. “It is not important what time is the substitution. At the time, it was the best for the team and I made this decision and the players know very well which is my philosophy and the first target is what’s best for the club.”

Would Conte like to give Hazard a rest? “Yes, but this happened against Norwich in the FA Cup. In this busy period I tried to make rotation and to give a bit of rest to the players that need to rest but also to work with the players that are not working a lot on the physical aspect because, don't forget, if you don't play you lose your potentiality and your strength.”

Despite the rest, Hazard was still tired on Saturday - something that Conte would not be drawn on. “This is a topic that is not only for him. On Saturday, I saw many players tired but don't forget we played a massive game on Wednesday night against Arsenal and then I decided to pick the same formation after two and a half days. “Maybe I made a mistake because many players didn't recover from this effort but this topic is not only for one player but for many players.”

He then got into his pet subject - the need for a big squad, with the suggestion that perhaps he hasn’t. “When you face all competitions, when you are very good and go to the next round, reach the semi-final of one trophy, play the FA Cup competition, to play the league and then the Champions League, I think you must have a big squad to face every game.”

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