Hazard and Co were enjoying themselves as they stepped onto Blues’ training pitches at Cobham
CHELSEA looked chipper as they prepared for a return to Champions League action.
Eden Hazard and Co were enjoying themselves as they stepped onto Blues’ Cobham training pitches on Monday.
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Antonio Conte will expect them to cruise to victory when they face Azerbaijani minnow Qarabag at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.
But the Blues boss may choose to rest some stars after moaning about his gruelling run of games after Saturday’s 2-1 win at Leicester.
Conte says he will need to rotate his squad but Blues fans will NOT get a first glimpse of new signing Danny Drinkwater after the midfielder picked up a calf injury.
Conte has comfirmed that Hazard will not be risked and will start on the bench.
Midfield engine N’Golo Kante is expected to play ALL of Blues’ seven games in 21 games during September.
Chelsea boss Conte said: “He can recover really well and then prepare for the game against Qarabag. N’Golo is a very important player for us.
“Before a lot of people told me ‘yes, without the ball he has good stamina and is a good worker’. But now with the ball he has improved a lot.
KNOW YOUR ENEMY… BLUES’ CHAMPIONS LEAGUE OPPONENTS QARABAG
CHELSEA’S opponents tomorrow night Qarabag have not played since a 2-1 win over Tony Adams’ former club Gabala in the Premyer Liqa on August 26.
That made it three wins out of three so far in their bid for a fifth successive Azerbaijan title.
But this is their first time in the Champions League group stages. They beat Georgians Samtredia way back in July and Sheriff from Moldova in qualifiers, then took out Danish side Copenhagen on away goals in the play-offs.
They played Tottenham twice in the Europa League in 2015, losing 1-0 and 3-1. Their home ground, the Tofiq Bahramov Stadium in Baku has a capacity of 31,200. They are unbeaten in nine Champions League ties there — five wins, four draws.
South African striker Dino Ndlovu hit 15 goals in all competitions last term and has four in Europe so far.
But Birmingham fans may remember Michel — a midfielder who played nine games in the Premier League in 2009-10.
“I am happy for this because we are working a lot with him. Now I think he is a top player.
“It was an amazing performance from him. He scored but overall he made a lot of good runs.
“I don’t know if he is world class or not. But N’Golo is a really good player.
“To be be the best player in the Premier League last season is a great thing. And this season he is confirming it.”
Kante outshone new signing Tiemoue Bakayoko in the win at the King Power.
But Conte is backing the Frenchman to hit his straps as the season wears on.
The Italian added: “Don’t forget that Baka is only 22, younger than N’Golo.
“He is very strong without the ball and now he can improve a lot with the ball in the same way N’Golo has.
“Every player can improve. You must have the will to work and improve. Until the end of your career you can always improve.”
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?Latest Champions League odds?
SUN BETS ARE ? PRICE FOR BRITISH CLUBS IN THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
- Man United to beat Basel: 2/13
- Chelsea to beat FC Qarabag: 1/12
- Liverpool to beat Sevilla: 8/11
- Man City to beat Feyenoord: 2/5