Chelsea’s midfield has taken a hit early in the season as manager Antonio Conte confirms new signing Tiemoue Bakayoko will miss both Sunday’s Community Shield match against Arsenal and their Premier League opener against Burnley next weekend.
The 22-year-old Frenchman has missed Chelsea’s preseason due to a minor knee operation, and that surgery will keep him out for the start of the season as well.
“We have to wait and be patient. They [Hazard and Bakayoko] are improving a lot and are recovering well from their injuries but they are not still ready to start the season,” Conte said in his pre-match press conference ahead of the Community Shield. “Eden has an ankle problem. After surgery it’s important to respect the right time to recover and the same with Bakayoko. He had surgery in his knee but we are hoping to recover very well. The work is going very well.”
The midfield will be extra thin after the sale of Nemanja Matic, leaving N'Golo Kante by himself in the hole, or potentially alongside Cesc Fabregas in a deeper role. 22-year-old Lewis Baker could see time as well after spending the last two seasons on loan at Vitesse.
How to fill Bakayoko’s place isn’t the only decision Conte has to make for Sunday’s match, with Hazard also out after ankle surgery and new striker signing Alvaro Morata not completely back to full fitness. “Alvaro is working very well and he’s trying to reach the best physical condition and to understand our idea of football,” Conte said. “He needs a bit more time.”
Morata’s absence could be contentous with reports that fellow striker Diego Costa is set to hand in a transfer request. That could leave Michy Batshuayi in a place to start on Sunday after seeing lots of time in Chelsea’s preseason.