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Sports

Conte rues loss of Morata for Everton clash

media Antonio Conte led Chelsea to the Premier League title in his first season in charge at Stamford Bridge. Reuters/Tony O'Brien

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte bemoaned the absence of 80 million euro striker Alvaro Morata on the eve of his side's trip to Everton. Morata was booked shortly after scoring the winning goal in Wednesday night’s League Cup quarter-final victory over Bournemouth.

The Spain striker, who had come off the bench, initially stuck the ball under his shirt in a gesture to his pregnant wife but he earned the caution for kicking the ball away as Bournemouth attempted to restart the game quickly.

It was 25-year-old Morata's fifth booking of the season, earning the forward a one-game ban and leaving Conte with a decision to make about how best to replace his side's leading scorer.

"For sure, Morata should have played against Everton," said Conte."He would have started the game, for sure. But I have to prepare a different plan. I have different options. At training everyone was in good form.”

Michy Batshuayi is the squad's only other recognised central striker. But the 2'-year-old Belgian failed to impress after being handed a rare start this week. Conte has preferred to employ Eden Hazard as a ‘false nine’ and he is expected to do that once again.

Chelsea are third, 14 points behind pacesetters Manchester City. "This match is very important for us. It is the last game before Christmas," said Conte. "I'd like to spend a good Christmas with a good game, a good win.

"It would be very important to get three points. But we know very well that, in the last five games, Everton won four games.

"They are in a good moment of form. They changed the coach and are having good results. For this reason, we must pay great attention on Saturday."

Everton have picked up 13 points from 15 available since Sam Allardyce agreed to become their manager last month.

That run has lifted the club to ninth, with 11 league goals scored and only two conceded in that time.

Former England captain Wayne Rooney is also enjoying a revival, with six goals in his past five appearances, including one on Monday as Everton beat Swansea 3-1 at Goodison Park.

Winger Aaron Lennon suggested that Allardyce's arrival has lifted the mood of the players. "We all know Chelsea are a great side but we're in a good run of form and at Goodison we fancy our chances against anyone so we're looking forward to that one," Lennon said.

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