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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Antonio Conte set to give youth a chance when Chelsea face Bournemouth in League Cup quarter-finals

Academy defender Ampadu expected to be given a start as is Belgian striker Batshuayi.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, right, will make changes to his team for the League Cup quarter-final against Bournemouth on Wednesday night. Tim Ireland / AP Photo
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, right, will make changes to his team for the League Cup quarter-final against Bournemouth on Wednesday night. Tim Ireland / AP Photo

Antonio Conte is set to hand first-team opportunities to three Chelsea youngsters for Wednesday night's League Cup quarter-final against Bournemouth.

Chelsea's academy team has established itself as arguably the best in England, winning six of the past eight FA Youth Cups, including the past four in succession. They are also the reigning Under-18 Premier League national and southern champions.

Despite their dominance in age-category football, Chelsea have not had an academy player cement a place in the senior team since former captain John Terry, who made his debut in 1998.

Conte has used experimental teams in Chelsea's two League Cup matches so far, although these have largely been first-team squad players afforded rare starts.

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Charly Musonda and Ethan Ampadu were the exception, with Belgian winger Musonda starting both matches, while English defender Ampadu was granted a place against Everton in the fourth round.

Musonda, who signed a new contract earlier this month that will keep him at Chelsea until 2022, is not available for tonight due to a groin problem. Meanwhile, academy defenders Dujon Sterling and Jake Clarke-Salter both made appearances from the bench in the third round against Nottingham Forest.

Conte revealed that Ampadu and Sterling are in line to feature at Stamford Bridge, as is forward Callum Hudson-Odoi, who was a key member of the England team that won the Under-17 World Cup in October.

Chelsea defender Ethan Ampadu. Andrew Yates / Reuters
Chelsea defender Ethan Ampadu. Andrew Yates / Reuters

"These players could be involved, why not? These players are the future for Chelsea," the Italian told a news conference.

"Sterling is a really good player, Hudson-Odoi won the [U17] World Cup. Ampadu played the last round against Everton, maybe he could start tomorrow.

"Every day Ampadu is working with us and working hard. I must consider the young players, if they deserve to have this chance."

Conte will give a starting berth to Michy Batshuayi as the Belgian striker looks to take advantage of a rare opportunity in the line-up.

Batshuayi has struggled to establish himself in Conte's plans, with club record signing Alvaro Morata the Italian's first-choice centre-forward. Even when the Spaniard was recently sidelined with a back injury, Conte opted to field Eden Hazard in the central striker role instead of Batshuayi, who scored a hat-trick in the third round.

Chelsea winger Charly Musonda. Pete Norton / Getty Images
Chelsea winger Charly Musonda. Pete Norton / Getty Images

"Morata is OK. He had a problem with his back before the West Ham game but he is working very well," Conte said. "He’s finding his best form but tomorrow I want to give a chance to Batshuayi."

While Conte is set to rest a number of key players this evening, he insists he is not taking the League Cup - or indeed Bournemouth - lightly.

"Every competition is serious and our task is to try and win the game, to reach the semi-finals," he said. "It’s right in this competition to give the opportunity to the players that aren’t playing with regularity. This is very important.

"It’s very difficult to ask your players to play every game. [N’Golo] Kante has played 10 games in a row. When you do this, you take a great risk with injury."

Bournemouth will be without Charlie Daniels and Joshua King for tonight's match, manager Eddie Howe has said.

Defender Daniels suffered a groin injury and lasted less than an hour in the 4-0 defeat to Liverpool in the Premier League on Sunday, while forward King came off after 31 minutes with a hamstring injury.

"They will however keep them out of tomorrow's game and we'll have to wait to see if they will be available for Manchester City," Howe told Bournemouth's website.