Antonio Conte admits it has not been easy for Michy Batshuayi to compete with Diego Costa for a starting spot at Chelsea, but insists that learning from the Spain international can only make the 23-year-old a better player.
Batshuayi is likely to be handed his first Premier League start since joining Chelsea last summer when they take on Bournemouth on Boxing Day, with Costa serving a one-match ban after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season.
Conte is full of praise for the attitude Batshuayi has shown as he waited for his chance, and says the striker’s moment to impress will arrive sooner or later.
“Michy’s attitude, his behaviour, have been fantastic,” Conte said. “He wants to improve his quality. Technical quality, physical quality, and we are working a lot with him on tactical aspects.
“He’s showing great commitment, great work-rate during the training sessions, great passion. For sure he wants to play and it’s not easy when you have Diego Costa in front of you — above all this Costa, who is playing fantastic football and scoring a lot of goals.
“But I repeat: it’s important for Michy to continue to work, to continue to improve. I’m sure his moment will arrive. If I decide to put Michy in the starting XI, it is because he is ready to play. He must do what he knows, what we are doing in the training sessions. Only this. If Michy is here, it’s because he deserves to stay here.”
Batshuayi has been linked with a January loan move away from Stamford Bridge in search of more regular first-team opportunities, but Conte believes the experience of working alongside Costa — who tops the Premier League scoring charts with 13 goals in 17 appearances this season — has been good for him.
“I think every single player, every forward, is different for characteristics, so Michy is different if you compare him to Diego,” Conte added. “Above all because, first of all, he’s a younger player.
“He can improve a lot. For sure, to stay close to Diego, you can learn a lot to improve your experience and improve your skills. And to have the training sessions with great players improves you.”