Hazard back but Arsenal too soon for Barkley's Chelsea debut
Ross Barkley must wait for his Chelsea debut as Antonio Conte's men look towards familiar talisman Eden Hazard in the EFL Cup semi-final.
Eden Hazard is set to return for Chelsea's EFL Cup semi-final against Arsenal but new recruit Ross Barkley is not yet ready for first-team action.
Hazard sat out Saturday's 0-0 FA Cup draw at Norwich City having sustained a knock to the calf but is available to feature when the Gunners visit Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
The Belgium star won and converted a penalty in the midst of a dazzling performance when Chelsea drew 2-2 at Arsenal in the Premier League last week.
"Eden is in a good physical condition. He had a little problem but he is in contention for the game," head coach Antonio Conte told a pre-match news conference.
Conte reports that Eden Hazard is in good physical condition and is ready for tomorrow's game. He says there are no other injury concerns.— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 9, 2018
Barkley's situation is not so straightforward, with the new £15million signing from Everton yet to play competitively this season following hamstring surgery.
Conte is impressed by how the England international has taken to training with the Premier League champions but urged caution over his progress.
"Wednesday night, I think is very soon for him but his physical condition is good. He has started to do the training sessions with us to understand our idea of football.
"He must be pleased but he needs a bit of time to work on the physical and tactical aspect. But I think his condition is very good.
"It is very difficult to say when he will play but, at the same time, I am very positive because the player is a good guy and showing great will and desire to work and help us very soon.
"It's positive and I am very happy to have Ross with us for the rest of the season."
Both legs of the semi-final will use the video assistant referee (VAR) system after the technology made its English debut in Brighton and Hove Albion's 2-1 FA win over Crystal Palace on Monday.
VAR has been used in Serie A this season and, although the implementation has not been without its problems, Conte feels the system has proved a positive overall in his homeland and can make a favourable impression in England.
"I think this is a good opportunity to improve our football but at the same time it will be very important to have a bit of time to use this new option in the right way," he said.
"I am positive because, when there is a big mistake it is right to try and correct a big mistake."
Conte added: "At the start [in Serie A] it wasn't easy to accept this type of solution, to stop the play and to wait for the right decision form the VAR.
"But I think this could be a good solution because you reduce the mistakes, especially big mistakes, and I think it's right for football to have a game with less mistakes."