Key Chelsea players were struck down with an illness before Sunday’s Premier League game against Manchester United, although some played on nonetheless and the club believe that it contributed significantly to their poor performance.
Antonio Conte took full responsibility for the defeat in the aftermath of the 2-0 win for Manchester United that kept Chelsea’s lead at the top of the Premier League to four points.
However, it can be revealed that as well as Marcos Alonso, the striker Diego Costa and winger Victor Moses both missed training on Friday because of the sickness.
Alonso passed himself fit to play but pulled out in the warm-up at Old Trafford, prompting a last minute switch by Conte to keep the balance of the team.
Costa played on but was below par by his standards – Chelsea did not muster a shot on target for the whole game. Moses also started the game but he was substituted on 54 minutes and was a long way from his best.
Conte does not want the players to look for excuses for the performance and it is expected that all three will be fit to play against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday in the much-anticipated FA Cup semi-final at Wembley between the Premier League’s two top clubs.
It is not clear why so many of the players found themselves affected but the feeling within the club was that it was just a short term illness and that the other unaffected members of the squad were at no risk of catching it.
Combined with the loss of Thibaut Courtois, who injured an ankle in a NBA promotional video shoot last week, the club’s preparation was badly disrupted in the build-up to the match. It is expected that Courtois will be struggling to be fit in time for Saturday’s game.
Conte’s approach has been to take any of the criticism for bad results himself and is expected to play down any below par performances.