Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte will continue to prioritise a winning team over the happiness of individuals, including Diego Costa and captain John Terry.
Conte yesterday spoke of his optimism that Costa will stay at Chelsea, but he said the striker’s future will be dealt with at the end of the season.
Another possible summer departure after more than 18 years in the Chelsea first team is Terry, who is expected to feature in the FA Cup at Wolves today.
Terry has had no complaints at being absent as Chelsea have marched to an eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League, while Cesc Fabregas’ impact has often come as a substitute. And Conte is content his fringe personnel are frustrated and eager to feature more.
“The most important thing, the target, is to win, not to try to have 21 players happy,” Conte said. “I want to be happy, but I’m happy if we win. Not if we lose and have 21 players happy.
“To be happy we go to the theatre, (to) the cinema.
“I want the players to try to fight to put me (under) pressure, (to give me) problems to solve, to make the best solution for the team.
“We must continue to put the team above all.”
Conte insists he treats all of his players the same, whether they start every game or are more peripheral. That is imperative to foster a good group, he says.
“I want to give them great respect, because I demand this,” he added. “I think that’s the right way to have a good dressing room.
“Believe me it’s not easy to have these types of players, this type of group. I think we’re growing a lot in these seven months in all these aspects.”
He is adamant disgruntled players can always approach him to seek an explanation.
“If the player wants to ask me, the player knows very well that my door is always open,” he added. “When you are honest in your choices, you can always see your players straight in the eyes.”
Costa, Chelsea’s top scorer with 15 goals this term, was linked last month with a mega-money move to the Chinese Super League.
Speculation soon subsided and more recent reports have suggested Costa is nearing an extension to his Chelsea contract, which has two years to run come the summer.
“I don’t know about this situation,” Conte added. “I think now it’s very important to be focused on the present and not to look so far forward.
“At the end of the season we will see the situation.”
David Luiz will be rested after playing while managing a knee injury sustained in December in a tackle which saw Sergio Aguero sent off for Manchester City. Terry could take his place in the centre of defence. Marcos Alonso will also be rested and his place at left wing-back could go to Nathan Ake or Kenedy.
But with no midweek game next week, Conte is unlikely to make wholesale changes, so the likes of Costa and Eden Hazard could feature at Molineux.
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