Ross Barkley
Ross Barkley could make his competitive Chelsea debut against Brighton this weekend


  • New signing is ineligible for FA Cup third-round decider having not been registered in time.
  • Captain Gary Cahill and midfielder Cesc Fabregas are both nursing minor hamstring injuries.
  • Antonio Conte says it is "not important" if Eden Hazard is happy with recent pattern of substitutions.

New signing Ross Barkley will not make his eagerly-anticipated Chelsea debut during Wednesday night's (17 January) clash with Norwich City, while Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas are also set to miss the FA Cup third-round replay at Stamford Bridge through injury.

Barkley moved to west London from Everton on a five-and-a-half year deal for £15m ($20.6m) on 5 January, but was unavailable for the initial meeting with the Canaries and the draws against Arsenal and Leicester City having only recently recovered from surgery on a hamstring tear that has prevented him from making a single competitive appearance in 2017-18.

It was suggested on Saturday [13 January] that the 24-year-old, who also underwent a groin operation during the summer, could play some part in midweek after impressing at Cobham, though the fact that he was not registered in time for the stalemate at Carrow Road means he remains ineligible for the subsequent replay.

However, Conte confirmed plans for Barkley to play in a friendly over the coming days before potentially being in contention this weekend when Chelsea visit Brighton & Hove Albion in the Premier League.

"We are preparing a friendly game for him [Barkley] during this week and then we will see his physical condition, but I am very happy for his commitment and his physical condition, and he could be ready for the next game," he told reporters at his pre-match press conference.

Conte plans to once again ring the changes against Norwich having made nine changes for the original tie amid a busy fixture schedule and suggested that highly-rated young centre-back Ethan Ampadu and sought-after striker Michy Batshuayi would both start.

Cahill's probable absence due to a minor hamstring issue sustained against 10-man Leicester could open the door for the former, a budding Welsh international. Fabregas will definitely be sidelined as the result of a similar issue sufferedin the same fixture, although supporters hoping to see teenager Callum Hudson-Odoi in action after his recent hat-trick for the development squad will be left disappointed.

"Cahill, but his problem is not so serious," Conte replied when asked for any injury news. "A muscular problem. And Cesc had a little problem in his hamstring and is not available for tomorrow's game."

On Under-17 World Cup winner Hudson-Odoi, he added: "I think we are talking about a player with good potential. He needs another step before having this chance to play with us. For sure he is a very interesting player for us and we have to continue to work with him and to improve, to have another step to be able to face this type of game."

Hazard happiness

Conte also reiterated his trust in Alvaro Morata during the striker's current goal drought, though claimed he was unconcerned if star man Eden Hazard was happy or not with a substitution policy that has seen him complete 90 minutes just once in the last eight outings.

"We're talking about a player that recently had a bad [ankle] injury and surgery," he said, per The Mirror. "Usually when you have this type of situation you must pay great attention, because during the season you can have ups and downs, also because he missed pre-season.

"We are trying to find the best way and it is normal that one player can keep the top of the form. My task is to improve him and try to take the best decision for the team for the game, not just him. I am the coach, I decide. It is not important if the player is happy, only here there it is this habit. It is not important. My first target is to do my best for the player and the team, not keep players happy."