Antonio Conte has revealed that Chelsea starlets Kyle Scott and Ethan Ampadu could be given a chance to impress after confirming that N'Golo Kante is likely to be on the sidelines for around three weeks.
The former Leicester City midfielder was forced off during France's 1-0 victory over Bulgaria on Saturday [7 October] after suffering a hamstring injury.
Conte says that the Kante needs to undergo a second scan to address the issue but initial tests suggests that he will be out for the remainder of October.
"[From] the previous scan maybe [Kante will be out for] around 20, 25 days, but in this situation you must pay great attention. For this reason, we are going to do another scan after one week to understand the situation very well, and see if this scan is better than the scan before," the Chelsea boss said in the press conference ahead of the visit to Cristal Palace on Saturday.
"We are going to do a scan next week to check his situation to see if he is improving. For sure it is a muscular problem, a hamstring problem. This is a big loss for us. You know very well the importance of N'Golo Kante in our team. We don't have another player with the same characteristics."
The Blues face six games in the space of 17 days starting against Palace, a run which includes and a double header against AS Roma in the Champions League. Should the initial prognosis regarding Kante prove accurate the Frenchman will miss the rest of the October schedule and would be facing a race against time to prove his fitness for the visit of Manchester United to Stamford Bridge on 5 November.
Even if Kante is does recover, he may not be risked for such a big game having not played for a month. Conte adopted a conservative approach when reintegrating Eden Hazard earlier in the season after the Chelsea ace underwent an ankle surgery in June.
Kante's injury is also an ill-time blow for Conte as Danny Drinkwater also remains on the sidelines due to another injury which has prevented him from making his debut for Chelsea since joining the Blues from Leceister on deadline day.
"Drinkwater is progressing well but is not ready yet. We must have patience with him, with his calf problem," the Chelsea boss added when asked about the recovery of the England international.
Conte will call upon Cesc Fabregas and Tiemoue Bakayoko when Chelsea visit Palace on Saturday [14 October]. However, Conte admits he will have to rotate, meaning 19-year-old Scott and 17-year-old Ampadu could be given a chance during Kante's absence.
"We were not lucky in this period above all in midfield. We have only Bakayoko and Fabregas available," Conte pointed out. "We have to approach seven games in one month and we have to find different solutions in this period: to adapt some defenders in midfield, or give opportunities to young players like Scott or Ampadu."
David Luiz could be also an alternative midfield option having already been deployed in the position against Tottenham earlier in the season. However, the Chelsea boss suggested that he would prefer to keep the Brazilian in the defence to ensure Kante's exit does not disrupt the team.
"David is one of the best central defenders. If I can, I prefer to not change a lot as you find a solution and you lose something with the defence," Conte said. "When I decided to use him in the midfielder against Tottenham, it could be an option if I play with three midfielders. I don't want to change a lot, but if there is the necessity I am ready to do this. Or give an opportunity to young players like Ampadu or Scott."
Alvaro Morata is ruled out for the trip to Palace after suffering a hamstring injury during the defeat to Manchester City just before the international break. However, Conte provided positive news regarding the Spaniard, with the former Real Madrid star could be back in time to face Roma on Wednesday (18 October).
"I hope to have him back very soon, I hope for the next game against Roma," the Chelsea boss confirmed.