Danny Drinkwater
Drinkwater made his long-awaited Blues debut on Wednesday. Getty


  • The former Leicester midfielder made his belated Blues debut against Everton.
  • But Conte believes his summer signing is still a few weeks away from full fitness.

Antonio Conte plans to continue integrating Danny Drinkwater into the Chelsea first-team over the next few weeks and expects him to be back to 100% after the international break.

Drinkwater signed for the Blues from Leicester City on the final day of the summer transfer window for a reported fee of £35m but was sidelined for the first two months of his time at Stamford Bridge with a calf injury.

The England international returned to full first-team training at the end of last week and was a surprise inclusion in the Chelsea starting XI that booked their place in the Carabao Cup quarter-final courtesy of a 2-0 win over Everton on Wednesday.

Drinkwater played for just over an hour before he was replaced by Cesc Fabregas, impressing Conte who is now confident he can count on his summer signing over the coming weeks.

"I think he has a lot of room for improvement," Conte said. "I preferred to give him the opportunity to play from the start because he needs to play, to find the right tempo and rhythm of the game.

"I knew I could risk something by playing him but I think it was very positive for him to start the game and to know that I can count on him for part of the next games."

Chelsea travel to Bournemouth and Saturday before jetting off to the Italian capital to take on Roma in their mid-week Champions League clash. The champions welcome Manchester United to Stamford Bridge on 5 November, a game N'Golo Kante hopes to be fit for after his recent hamstring injury.

Drinkwater is unlikely to be match to full match fitness in time for the visit of his former club, suggests Conte, but believes the midfielder will have a role to play over the next nine days.

"We will have three games before the international break and to see him fit 100% may be after the international break. I can count on him in games now. If I decide to play with three midfielders, it is very important."