By James Agberebi:
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has admitted that it will be difficult to replace Nigeria captain Mikel Obi, John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic.
Both Mikel and Serbian defender Ivanovic left Chelsea for Chinese Super League club Tianjin Teda and Russian top club Zenit respectively in the January transfer window, while captain Terry will call it quits with the Blues at the end of this season.
Speaking in Friday’s press conference ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final clash against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley Stadium, Conte stated that rebuilding the squad following the departures of the three players is a big task.
“My situation is different from Carlo Ancelotti’s first season at Chelsea as now we are building the foundations,” Conte said.
“It is not easy to find replacements for the likes of Ivanovic, Mikel and Terry. That is why I speak of building.”
Conte described Tottenham as one of the power houses of English football.
“Tottenham are a great power in English football. It is the right moment for them to stop feeling the underdog,” he said.
The former Juventus coach then gave updates on players’ fitness.
“Thibaut Courtois has recovered from his injury and he has trained this week,” Conte revealed.
“This period is not a lucky one as in training on Tuesday, Gary Cahill had a bit of fever.
“Cahill was sent to hospital by the doctor for checks. It is not a serious problem but it will be difficult to play tomorrow.”
On the death of Ugo Ehiogu, Conte said: “I will like to send my condolences and the players to Ugo Ehiogu’s family.
“There will be a strange atmosphere at the game tomorrow due to the sad news.”