Antonio Conte admits Andreas Christensen has become an important player for Chelsea after the defender’s injury absence coincided with two humiliating defeats.

Denmark international Christensen limped off with a hamstring problem in the first half of the shock 3-0 home loss to Bournemouth when the game was goalless, before missing the subsequent 4-1 thrashing at Watford.

Manager Conte, who is unsure whether the centre-back will be fit to return for Monday’s Premier League match with West Brom, could not explain why the Blues have struggled without him.

“I don’t know. It happened in the last two games,” said Conte.

“I don’t know why. But it happened. We didn’t concede many goals in the past when Christensen played. It’s right to look at the stats, but we have to take the stats in the right way. But Christensen is an important player for us. He’s playing a fantastic season.”

Chelsea’s players were given three days off following the heavy defeat at Vicarage Road. They returned to training yesterday, although Christensen was not fit enough to be involved, leaving him doubtful to face the Baggies.

With the former Borussia Monchengladbach loanee sidelined, Conte gave David Luiz a rare outing against the Hornets. It was the Brazilian’s first league start since late October and, despite his poor performance, Conte insisted it was not down to fitness.

“Yes, he was fit,” Conte said of Luiz. “100%.”

Champions Chelsea will remain without injured star striker Alvaro Morata against West Brom, while midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko serves a one-game ban following his red card against Watford.

With Morata unavailable due to a back issue, Michy Batshuayi allowed to join Borussia Dortmund on loan, and Olivier Giroud regaining fitness following a hamstring problem, the Blues have been left without a recognised striker in the last two games.

Conte, however, refused to rue the decision to let Batshuayi leave. “Now the transfer market is finished. It’s finished,” he added.

“We took a decision. Now I think this is not important to say ‘we could have done this’ or ‘we should have done that’. We have to focus on the present to finish the season in the best way possible, and not to have regrets for anything.”

Meanwhile West Brom boss Alan Pardew will continue to pick Jay Rodriguez but insists the striker is angry about being charged by the FA.

Rodriguez was accused of using racist language following a clash with Brighton’s Gaetan Bong, an allegation Pardew fears could follow the one-cap England player for the rest of his career.

Bong accused the 28-year-old during Albion’s 2-0 Premier League win last month.

Pardew said: “I’ve got no problem picking him. At the moment he’s angry but he’s okay. It’s an accusation he denies and we’re going to support him.”

Rodriguez would face a minimum five-match ban if the case against him is proven.

“It’s not just about us losing Jay for five games, it’s a bit more serious than that, his future after the game — whether he wants to be a coach or go into business.

“Jay is upset about it, he has a good mental capacity to deal with things and hopefully he can concentrate on his football and not worry too much — although it is a worry.”


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