Antonio Conte has suggested he could deploy his strongest line-up when Manchester United visit Chelsea for the FA Cup quarter-finals on Monday night (13 March), pointing out that he doesn't "see the necessity to rest players" against Jose Mourinho's side.
The former Juventus manager used the previous rounds of the FA Cup to rest some of his key assets to keep them fresh for the Premier League. The likes of Thibaut Courtois, David Luiz and Marcos Alonso are yet to play a single minute in the competition this season as the Italian opted instead to give his fringe players opportunities against Peterborough United, Brentford and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
N'Golo Kante featured off the bench in just two of those games while Diego Costa and Eden Hazard only made the starting line-up for the fifth-round win over Wolves.
However, Conte has suggested he can field a marquee XI against Manchester United as Chelsea have no more games to play until Saturday (against Stoke City) – and they are 10 points ahead of Tottenham and Manchester City in the Premier League.
"The FA Cup is a great competition and for this reason I want to try to make the best decision for the game against United. We didn't play in the week, our last game was Monday, and then we play again on Saturday. I don't see the necessity to rest players, because United will do the same against us," Conte said. He expects Mourinho to deploy a strong line-up even though Zlatan Ibrahimovic is ruled out through suspension and United face FC Rostov in a crucial Europe League encounter on Thursday night.
"This game is important for us and for them. I think their formation will be very good because I think that United, along with City, have the best squad in this league – with the number of players in the squad and the quality as well."
"Also because they have had four days to recover [from their Europa League trip to Rostov]. We could have played this game on Sunday or Saturday, but we are playing on Monday and I think the FA have shown great respect for Manchester United to play the last day we are able to play this game."
Meanwhile, Conte said the United boss is one of the best managers in the world and he would like to emulate the success of his Chelsea predecessor at Stamford Bridge.
"For sure, he is one of the best in the world. I think that Jose Mourinho wrote a good part of the history of Chelsea. He won a lot with the players and he did a great job here. It is important not to forget this and I have great respect for him because he is a winner and I like his winning mentality," Conte admitted. "His history with Chelsea is great and I know very well he is in the hearts of the Chelsea fans and this is great because he deserves this. For sure, I hope in the future to try to emulate his wins here."