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Zouma returns as Conte rests players for Cup clash

Chelsea’s Antonio Conte has revealed he plans to start Kurt Zouma (shown here) in the match against Peterborough, 11 months after the French defender ruptured cruciate knee ligaments facing Manchester United © AFP/File / GLYN KIRK

LONDON, United Kingdom, Jan 7Antonio Conte is set to bring Kurt Zouma and Michy Batshuayi into the Chelsea side for Sunday’s FA Cup third-round tie with League One side Peterborough United.

The Blues manager will rest a number of his first-team players against the third tier outfit, four days after seeing their 13-league game winning run come to an end with a 2-0 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur.

Conte revealed he plans to start Zouma in his defence against Peterborough, 11 months after the French defender ruptured cruciate knee ligaments facing Manchester United.

The 47-year-old Italian also confirmed Batshuayi will start up front, most likely in place of leading striker Diego Costa.

Zouma has been back in training for weeks, with Conte cautious in bringing him back into the first-team fold after such a severe injury.

The former Italy national coach has confirmed he is looking to buy new players in January, but not in central defence.

He hinted 22-year-old Zouma was ready to come into his three-man backline for Premier League games should injuries occur to David Luiz, Gary Cahill or Cesar Azpilicueta.

“I don’t think we need another central defender,” said Conte.

“Kurt Zouma is ready to start. I’m pleased for him. He’s in the starting XI. Also for him, it’s a good opportunity to show me he’s in good form.

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“His injury was very bad, very bad. I knew this and I talked with my club about it and for this reason we knew Kurt needed more time to recover.

“But now he’s in good shape and ready to play and restart his career.”

– ‘Play on the front foot’ –

Batshuayi has been forced to wait for his chance since arriving in a £33 million move from Marseille at the start of the season.

Conte admits it has taken the 23-year-old Belgium international longer than he had hoped to adapt to the rigours of English football.

“Diego is doing very well but playing a lot. For Michy it’s a good opportunity to show me his promise,” said Conte.

“It’s not easy to arrive in England in this league and adapt when he’s a striker and young player, because this league is very physical.

“But he’s working a lot and I’m seeing he’s improving and getting the idea about our football.

“It’s a good opportunity to show that he deserves to play more in future.”

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Peterborough lie eighth in League One and travel to Stamford Bridge on the back of a good run of form that has brought three wins followed by three draws in their last six matches.

That has lifted confidence among Grant McCann’s side and the manager insists he will not be asking his side to change their style for the meeting with the Premier League leaders.

“I’m not making changes just because it’s Chelsea,” said McCann.

“We have nothing to lose so we will try and get between Chelsea’s lines, win some corners and get some shots off on goal.

“We will try and play on the front foot, like we do in every game.

“We are going there full of confidence and we gave the players two days off in order to freshen their minds and bodies.

“It’s a massive match for the club and we don’t want to leave anything behind on the pitch.”

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