LONDON – Chelsea’s record signing Alvaro Morata is unlikely to start the champions’ Premier League opener against Burnley on Saturday because he has not adjusted to their style, Blues manager Antonio Conte said on Friday.
Chelsea paid what British media said was an initial £58 million for the former Real Madrid striker as replacement for out-of-favour Diego Costa, who has been told he can leave the club.
Last week, Morata came on as a 74th-minute substitute for Michy Batshuayi in the Community Shield penalty shootout defeat to Arsenal at Wembley, and Conte said the 24-year-old is still not ready.
“Alvaro is working well, but he needs time to understand and adapt to our style of football, above all because he’s a striker. He is starting to understand what I want from him during games,” Conte said.
The Italian said that another of his signings, Antonio Rudiger, “could start” against Burnley in place of the suspended Victor Moses. “He’s a good player, strong, good personality, technique,” Conte said.
Pedro is also unavailable after suffering an ankle injury against Arsenal.
Conte said he believed Chelsea, who have also signed midfielder Tiemoue Bakayako from Monaco, are a stronger side than last season.
“I am pleased, because we are working well with this team and this group of players. I think we are better than last season.
“At the start of this season it’s simple to tell that in this league, there are six top teams who should be fighting for the title. But you know very well that there are surprises.”
Conte said there was “no news” on Costa, who is expected to leave in the transfer window.