Boosting the World Cup hopes of Chelsea’s fringe players will not be a consideration for Antonio Conte during the final weeks of the season, the Italian has said.
Jose Mourinho this week claimed Eric Bailly has fallen from favour at Manchester United because the Portuguese wants to offer playing time to Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Victor Lindelof and Marcos Rojo, who are hoping to be in Russia with England, Sweden and Argentina respectively.
Danny Drinkwater and Ross Barkley’s chances to impress England boss Gareth Southgate have been severely limited this season.
And the midfield duo can expect no special treatment from Conte as fifth-placed Chelsea, five points back from Tottenham in fourth, seek to force their way into the Champions League qualification places, before contesting the FA Cup final against United.
“When you arrive at this point of the season, it doesn’t change anything if you play one or two games,” the manager said.
“The [international] coach is very clear in his mind what his decision is. We will try to help Chelsea to finish in the best possible way. [Then] we’ll see which are the [players] called about the national team.
“For sure, I feel sympathy, I feel sympathy for my players. But as you know very well, before these big competitions the [international] coach has to pick the best players.
“At the end of the season, they decide who will play this tournament.
“But, of course, I have great sympathy for my players and I hope to see many Chelsea players in this tournament.”
On Sunday Chelsea host a Liverpool side that have reached the Champions League final, but who trail Premier League title-holders Manchester City by a huge margin of 21 points.
Conte, though, rejected suggestions the Reds’ European form should have been matched by a more effective challenge to City’s domestic dominance.
“As you know very well, when you play these types of tournaments, it is totally different to the league,” he said.
“In the league you have 38 games to show you are the best. [In knockout competitions] it is different, the moment you arrive is important, [your] physical condition, the group, the draw.
“Liverpool has deserved to play this final. They eliminated Manchester City. They deserve to play the final.”
Asked if snatching a Champions League qualifying place will increase his chances of remaining in charge at Stamford Bridge, Conte said: “The situation is not in our hands, but we will try. And then I will see what happens.
“We have another final in [the] FA Cup and for sure we want to give a satisfaction to our fans. It won’t be easy against Manchester United but we want to do our best.”