Antonio Conte plans to start Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard against Championship outfit Nottingham Forest on Wednesday night (20 September) and hopes the influential playmaker will last the entirety of a Carabao Cup third-round clash at Stamford Bridge that will also see the likes of compatriot Charly Musonda and the controversial Kenedy handed a chance to impress.
Hazard missed Chelsea's first four matches of the season following surgery on a broken right ankle suffered on international duty with Belgium back in June and has been limited to second-half cameos in their last three outings against Leicester City, FK Qarabag and Arsenal.
He reaffirmed that intention during his pre-match press conference, insisting that Hazard is ready to feature from the off having seen his rehabilitation expertly managed.
"I think for Eden now is the right moment to start the game and try to play the whole game," he told reporters. "I hope to be with him at the final step for the injury.
"I think we have managed very well his situation and in my career I was injured a lot of times and I have a bit of experience about this situation. We are managing the situation very well and he is ready to start."
Hazard is the only player known to be certain to start against Mark Warburton's Forest, although Conte said that the match could be a "good opportunity" for those who have not played often of late including Musonda and Kenedy.
The former made two brief appearances against Arsenal and Burnley at the very start of the campaign, while the latter has yet to feature since being sent home from from a pre-season tour of the Far East after his offensive social media posts caused uproar in China. A prospective late loan move to Newcastle United was blocked due to Chelsea's failure to secure competition for Marcos Alonso.
"Kenedy knows very well what happened in China. He made a mistake, but everyone in life can make a mistake," Conte said. "He is focused, he is working very well and he understood his mistake. Now he is ready to play and to show he deserves a place for the future."
On the versatile Musonda, who he believes can play as a number 10, winger or wing-back, he added: "You can see Charly's talent very clearly. I am sure we are talking about a young player with really good prospects. Now it is important he is working very well and trying to adapt himself to this league, which is not simple. It's a physical league."
Conte, who will be without deadline day signing Danny Drinkwater for another month at least, also reiterated that Pedro's latest ankle issue was "nothing serious" but stated that the Spaniard needs time to recover.
He further confirmed that Chelsea would not be appealing the three-match ban handed to David Luiz following his challenge on Arsenal defender Sead Kolasinac that earned him a straight red card, while he also refused to address speculation regarding a new bid from Atletico Madrid for AWOL striker Diego Costa.