Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has lamented the loss of suspended striker Alvaro Morata for the Premier League trip to Everton after the Spain international picked up a fifth yellow card in the Carabao Cup win over Bournemouth.
Morata came off the bench to send the Blues into the semi-finals with a toe-poked finish in the first minute of added-on time, and marked the occasion by tucking the match ball underneath his shirt – a celebration inspired by his wife recently becoming pregnant with their first child.
But referee Lee Mason misinterpreted the act as time wasting and dished out a caution for the ex-Real Madrid forward, which triggered an automatic one-game ban. Chelsea's top scorer will therefore miss this Saturday's (23 December) trip to Goodison Park.
"I must be honest, in that moment we were enjoying the goal and I didn't see the situation," Conte told the media, according to Sky Sports. "I knew he tried to celebrate with the ball under the shirt. It's a pity but we have to accept it.
"It's very important to see what happened. If the referee booked him only because he put the ball under his shirt, I think it's a pity and you can allow this. With this celebration you are showing your joy.
"The only problem is Morata took a yellow card & is not available. A big loss for us, but it happened and it's OK."
Conte now faces a dilemma over who will lead his attack and must choose between the only other out-and-out forward in his squad, Michy Batshuayi, or Eden Hazard, who has occupied a 'false nine' role with great success for Chelsea this season.
Belgium international Batshuayi has shuffled down the pecking order at Chelsea and has been linked with a January loan move away from West London, with speculation rife he could be used as a makeweight in any deal to bring Thomas Lemar to the club from Monaco.
And when presented with an opportunity to back the 24-year-old to play against Everton, Conte refused the offer and said he is yet to decide who will lead the forward line.
"For sure Morata won't start the game and now I have to prepare a different plan," the former Italy boss said. "I have different options and another day to make the best decision. Every single player was in good form in training today."