No Hazard, no Costa but Conte is good enough to mastermind another Chelsea win at Wembley

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The Blues blew away their rivals in last year's FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, but their skeleton squad may find it harder to do so this time around


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Diego Costa, Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas all came off the bench to help Chelsea to a sensational 4-2 win over Tottenham 121 days ago, as they turned an underwhelming first 60 minutes into derby bragging rights at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-final. 

Nemanja Matic scored a screamer from 30 plus yards to make it 4-2 and Nathan Ake came in and performed brilliantly in place of Gary Cahill, who was hit by sickness before the match. Unfortunately for Antonio Conte, all of those players are either injured, AWOL or have left the club. 

7/1 for Spurs and Chelsea to draw 0-0

Danny Rose, like many Spurs players that day, seemed in awe of Chelsea as they brought on a group of champions from their bench. 

“We played Chelsea in the Cup semi - Costa, Hazard and Cahill didn’t play," Rose told The Sun. “After 60 minutes, Conte has brought on Fabregas, Hazard and Costa and they’ve changed the match.

“I thought to myself, ‘could we ever afford to play against a top team and afford to have Harry Kane, Dele Alli and a top centre-back not playing?’"

The champions now have Charly Musonda, Jeremie Boga, Kyle Scott and Fikayo Tomori as likely members of the matchday squad in what would be the game of their lives. 

Conte temporarily has fewer tools at his disposal, and there is a concern among some of the fan base that Chelsea are in for another season like Jose Mourinho's year of discontent. 

The incoming signings have been impressive with Alvaro Morata, Antonio Rudiger and Tiemoue Bakayoko all recent arrivals to the club, but the sheer number of outgoing players has rightly been a cause for concern. 

A host of young players have left the club like Kurt Zouma and Nathan Ake, while Matic was named man of the match on his home debut for Manchester United. The calls to add depth must be listened to before August 31, but Conte must take on what is a title rival with what he currently has. 

This is Conte's biggest selection problem since he came to England, but he is capable of navigating this one and avoiding a defeat. The Italian must try to avoid Chelsea's worst start since the 1973-74 season, the last time the west London club lost two in a row to begin a campaign. 

Chelsea XI for Spurs

There is some hope, though. Victor Moses will return and Pedro has a chance of making the starting line-up, to replace Fabregas and Cahill who were sent off against Burnley. Hazard and Bakayoko are training but it would be a huge surprise to see either selected for the first Premier League match to be played at Wembley.

Chelsea will have to rely on young players just as Tottenham often do. Kyle Walker-Peters made his debut for Spurs away at Newcastle, with Mauricio Pochettino's side having failed to sign anyone so far in the transfer window.

Meanwhile, the game is an early chance for Andreas Christensen and the other Chelsea youngsters to play on the biggest stage, where they believe they belong. 

Eden Hazard and Diego Costa

Antonio Conte

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Some fans may be panicking but judgment should be saved until after the transfer window shuts, as 40.91% of Chelsea's signings in the last six years have come after the season has started.

The referee's whistle on Saturday might actually be respite from the noise of the transfer window for Conte and the players. They can focus on trying to win and not the opinions of others.

This is not yet a crisis and it would be foolish to underestimate the champions at this stage, so do so at your own risk. 

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