Conte’s comments on Ivanovic future make it clear

Date published: Saturday 28th January 2017 11:03

Branislav Ivanovic: To Russia with love

Antonio Conte has refused to assure Branislav Ivanovic of his Chelsea future as Tuesday’s transfer deadline approaches.

The Serbia defender, 33 next month, has made more than 350 appearances since signing from Lokomotiv Moscow in January 2008, winning every major club honour.

“I don’t know if anything happens about him,” Conte said.

“There are four days (remaining of the transfer window) and, in this month, there is a lot of speculation.”

Ivanovic has slipped down the pecking order at Stamford Bridge since Conte switched to a 3-4-3 formation during the loss at Arsenal in September.

That was Ivanovic’s most recent Premier League start and Chelsea subsequently enjoyed a 13-match winning run, with Victor Moses preferred as right wing-back and Cesar Azpilicueta on the right of a three-man central defence.

Ivanovic, who has been linked with Zenit St Petersburg and Everton, was not in the matchday squad for last weekend’s win over Hull.

He is in the squad for Saturday’s FA Cup clash with Brentford, but appears unlikely to start, even though Conte plans to rotate his options.

“When I switched to three at the back, something changed and, for sure, I have to make decisions,” Conte added.

“I think that, until now, he’s always involved in our squad.”

Ivanovic is not the only senior figure whose future is uncertain.

Conte says Asmir Begovic will only be allowed to leave Chelsea if a suitable replacement can be found.

The Blues are considering an offer from Bournemouth for the 29-year-old former Stoke goalkeeper, who is back-up to first choice Thibaut Courtois.

Conte says Begovic will start against Brentford, but declined to say whether Celtic’s Craig Gordon was under consideration as a replacement.

“Begovic (will) start,” Conte said.

“Begovic is a Chelsea player. It’s important to understand this. I’m very happy to have him to stay in the squad.

“We are open to help him if there is the opportunity to replace him in the best way. If it’s not possible, Begovic stays with us.”

Begovic signed a four-year contract on joining Chelsea in the summer of 2015, replacing Petr Cech after he left for Arsenal.

The Bosnia-Herzegovina goalkeeper has made four Chelsea appearances this season.

Conte was again coy on the prospect of players leaving or moving to Stamford Bridge in the final days of the transfer window, which closes on Tuesday evening.

Ola Aina, like Ivanovic a right-sided player, could be allowed to leave on loan for the second half of the campaign, Conte said.

But the Italian is still to decide whether Charly Musonda and Kenedy will play for Chelsea this season.

The pair have been training with their parent club after the premature ending of their loans, but playing for the Blues would rule them ineligible to play elsewhere this season.

Conte plans to rotate his options against Brentford due to the proximity of key games against Premier League title rivals.

Chelsea play Liverpool next Tuesday night and Arsenal on February 4.

Gary Cahill has reported no ill-effects from the accidental collision which left Hull’s Ryan Mason with a fractured skull, but the England defender is set for a rest for the first time this term.

Conte said: “We play two games very tough against two rivals to win the league, but for me now my focus, my concentration is to go into the next round of the FA Cup.

“I hope the same thought is in the mind of my players. It’s an opportunity for us – for me – to see many players who are not playing.”

Captain John Terry could feature following his dismissal during the third-round win over Peterborough and subsequent suspension.

And Nathan Ake, who can play left wing-back or as one of Conte’s back three, will get a chance after he was recalled from Bournemouth.

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