Chelsea boss Antonio Conte believes Alvaro Morata will be back up to full speed in time for Tuesday’s Champions League clash against Barcelona after his quicker than expected return from a back injury.
Only a week ago the Blues manager suggested that the club’s record signing could be finished for the season due to the back problem.
It was therefore a surprise to see the Spanish striker named amongst the substitutes for Monday’s 3-0 win over West Brom, with Conte bringing the 25-year-old on for the final half hour.
The Italian is expected to give Morata another run out in Friday’s FA Cup fifth round tie against Championship side Hull City as he looks to make sure he is firing on all cylinders for the resumption of their European campaign next week.
“Morata started training with us last week, from Saturday,” said the Blues boss. “Now he’s training with regularity. Tonight is another good step for him to prepare himself for the Barcelona game, then I have to make the best decision for the starting 11.”
Morata’s return to the starting line-up for Chelsea is far from assured following the arrival of Olivier Giroud from Arsenal during the January transfer window.
The Frenchman led the line for the Blues on Monday night, setting up Eden Hazard for the opening goal of the game.
Conte is hopeful that the competition for the lone striker role he prefers to play will bring the best out of both men, with Morata having struggled in front of goal before his injury.
“I think that Alvaro is a player with a good responsibility,” Conte said. “A good maturity.
“The competition is good for the team. I think a great team must have competition in every role.”
Conte is expected to name a strong side for Friday’s clash with Hull City, despite the visit of Barcelona for the first leg of their Champions League last-16 being just four days away.