Barkley ineligible to make Chelsea debut against Norwich
Hazard, Cahill and Fabregas to miss out as Conte shuffles the pack for FA Cup clash
Ross Barkley: must wait a little longer to make his competitive debut for Chelsea. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP//Getty Images
Chelsea are seeking to arrange a behind-closed-doors friendly this week to grant Ross Barkley game time after discovering only on Sunday that the new signing would not be able to make his debut tonight at home to Norwich.
Antonio Conte had envisaged selecting Barkley among his substitutes for the FA Cup third-round replay with a view to the 24-year-old playing his first competitive football of the campaign after a hamstring injury.
Yet the Chelsea club secretary, David Barnard, pointed out that the England international had completed his £15m move from Everton after the midday cut-off on the day before the original tie at Carrow Road.
Competition rules stipulate players must be eligible for the original fixture if they are to feature in a replay. “I found out two days ago, when David told Carlo [Cudicini, the assistant coach] who informed me,” said Conte. “Up to then I was sure Ross Barkley could play against Norwich. Not to start – taking a stupid risk is no good – but, for sure, to play a part of the game.
“We are preparing a friendly game for him during this week, and then we will see his physical condition. But I’m very happy for his commitment and physical condition. He could be ready for the next game [against Brighton on Saturday], or for the one after that [Arsenal in the second leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final].”
Merseyside police have confirmed they found no evidence of criminal activity after scrutinising the circumstances of Barkley’s transfer from Everton to Chelsea at the request of the mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson.
Eden Hazard is likely to be rested having been substituted on each of his past four starts. The Belgian had appeared unimpressed at being hauled off before the hour against Leicester City on Saturday but Conte, without Gary Cahill and Cesc Fàbregas tonight, cited the need to manage Hazard’s condition after ankle surgery ruled him out of pre-season preparations.
“I’m the coach, I decide [who plays],” he said. “My first task is to do the best for the team and the club, not to make every player happy. The most important thing is to win. I learned this from the coaches I worked under, from [Marcello] Lippi, [Giovanni] Trapattoni, [Arrigo] Sacchi.
“Maybe in the first moment, a player could be angry. But then, after they reflect, they understand you are an honest person and every choice is for the best for the team.”