Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Cup clash gives Fabregas chance to prove point

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Chelsea’s Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas. AFP PHOTO/BEN STANSALL .

Cesc Fabregas is not happy at his lack of game time under Chelsea manager Antonio Conte and on Saturday he can make a case for more opportunities in the FA Cup fourth-round clash with Brentford.

The 29-year-old former Arsenal and Barcelona midfielder — a member of the Spain side that won the 2010 World Cup — has made just five Premier League starts this season and admits he has found it difficult to adjust to life on the sidelines.

“I play football to win and enjoy,” said Fabregas, who came on and impressed in last weekend’s 2-0 win over struggling Hull that kept Chelsea eight points clear at the top of the Premier League.

“When I don’t play I’m sad and I don’t enjoy it but I’m happy the team is doing well. Football is my life, it’s everything to me.”

Conte, whose inspired decision to switch to three centrebacks after a defeat by Arsenal has transformed the club’s fortunes, is likely to rest his leading striker Diego Costa with Michy Batshuayi set to be handed a rare starting spot.

Conte, who arrived at Chelsea after guiding Italy to a penalty shootout defeat by Germany at the Euro 2016 quarter-finals, has done an excellent job of managing his squad this season.

He fielded a number of young players in the third-round victory over third-tier Peterborough United.

The 47-year-old Italian is again expected to shuffle his pack, handing a start to midfielders Nathaniel Chalobah and Ruben Loftus-Cheek while defender Kurt Zouma is likely to continue his recovery from a long-term knee injury with a starting appearance.

The meeting with second-tier Brentford, also from west London, presents an opportunity for Josh McEachran to return to Stamford Bridge and make a point of his own.

The midfielder was tipped to break into the Chelsea line-up after being introduced to the first team by Carlo Ancelotti at the age of 17.

Now 23, he fell out of favour when Ancelotti was replaced by Andre Villas-Boas and after several spells out on loan, eventually completed a permanent move to Brentford 18 months ago.

“Managers are under so much pressure so to chuck a young English lad in, it’s not easy,” said McEachran, whose failure to get a real look-in at Chelsea should be a lesson to the likes of Chalobah and Loftus-Cheek.

“At 17 or 18 I was good enough to play for Chelsea and I still think I could play for Chelsea. It’s just about the opportunity. You need confidence — I had that with Carlo.

“I do think the club wants to see a young English lad break through.

“They are desperate for it. Nathaniel Chalobah is getting another chance. He has always been a top player. I am hoping he does.”

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