Tiemoue Bakayoko's Chelsea debut may come sooner than planned with Antonio Conte admitting he may have to risk the midfielder due to a lack of alternative options.
Chelsea shelled out a reported £40million to bring Bakayoko in from Ligue 1 champions Monaco, but knee surgery at the end of last season has delayed his integration into the first-team set-up.
With Cesc Fabregas suspended for Chelsea's trip to Wembley to face Tottenham on Sunday after a red card against Burnley in a surprise 3-2 Premier League defeat last weekend, Conte confirmed he may be forced to call on the France international earlier than he would like.
The Blues head coach stated Eden Hazard remains short of fitness following an ankle injury, while Pedro is suffering from pain in the same joint and is a doubt to face Spurs.
"Bakayoko is improving very well. He's not at the top of physical condition but I think he will be in contention for the game because in this moment I don't have other midfielders available," Conte told a pre-match media conference on Friday.
"Hazard is improving, but to be fully fit I think he needs time. We must have patience with him and try to do the best for him.
"Pedro trained with us today and he felt pain in his ankle – I don't know about him. It's a difficult situation, I don't know if he's available for the bench or not on Sunday."
Conte is unhappy about having to risk players who are not in peak condition but wants no excuses for anything but a full-blooded display from his side as they look to bounce back from a disappointing opening weekend.
"This situation is not easy. It could force me to take a difficult decision, because in this moment some players are not 100 per cent in their physical condition," he said.
"[Alvaro] Morata is another player who needs to continue to work to improve to find the right physical condition. We have to face a difficult situation and for this reason I have to make difficult decisions.
"My only worry is that when you try to put the players in very early the risk to have an injury is high.
"We must be focused on the pitch, on the game and to try to do our best against Tottenham and not find an excuse, but only focus on the game.
"A great club like Chelsea must be prepared for this situation.
"It's important to continue to work, for everyone to give 150 per cent and then for sure we can solve the situation."