Conte hails Christensen’s impact as ‘best surprise’ of season

Chelsea manager to rest several senior players in advance of Bournemouth test

English League Cup quarter-final

Chelsea v Bournemouth

Venue: Ashton Gate

Kick off: 7.45pm


Antonio Conte has described Andreas Christensen's impact as "the best surprise" of the season and earmarked the defender as a future Chelsea captain as he prepares to send out an experimental side in the English League Cup quarter-final at Stamford Bridge.

Ethan Ampadu, the 17-year-old Wales international whose only Chelsea start came in the previous round, will partner Danny Drinkwater in midfield against Bournemouth on Wednesday night, with Kenedy operating at left wing-back.

Dujon Sterling, 18, a member of England under-19s’ successful European Championship campaign over the summer, and Callum Hudson-Odoi, 17, who helped the national side win the under-17s World Cup in October, are expected to be on the bench. The latter has yet to represent the first team.

Conte was keen to stress the selections are based on merit.

“I do not hand out stupid presents to people who don’t deserve them,” he said and pointed to Christensen’s contribution as an example of an academy graduate taking his chance.

The 21-year-old, who spent the past two seasons on loan at Borussia Mönchengladbach, has started 11 Premier League games and stepped into the breach impressively with David Luiz off form and now hampered by a knee complaint.

“Every time I have decided to give Christensen the opportunity to play, he has given an amazing performance and convinced me he has to play regularly,” said Conte.

“Christensen is maybe the best surprise from the start of this season, for me, the club, his team-mates, the fans. He has the right characteristics to play for this club for many years.”

Conte will rest the majority of his senior players, with Michy Batshuayi granted a rare start up front. The Belgian has been hampered by an ankle complaint recently, with the manager having made clear what the €37 million forward has to do to play more often.

“He has to show me he’s better than Álvaro Morata, or Eden Hazard,” Conte said.

Bournemouth will be without the injured pair of Charlie Daniels and Joshua King. Defender Daniels suffered a groin injury and lasted less than an hour in the 4-0 defeat by Liverpool in the league on Sunday, while forward King came off after 31 minutes with a hamstring injury. – Guardian