LEICESTER — Midfielder Cesc Fabregas hopes his match-winning performance for Chelsea in their League Cup third-round win over Leicester “shuts” up his critics.
Fabregas made his first start since Chelsea’s 3-2 win over Bristol Rovers in the competition last month at King Power Stadium on Tuesday, having tasted just 32 minutes of action in the Premier League.
Despite favouring N’Golo Kante, Oscar and Nemanja Matic over Fabregas in midfield this season, Chelsea boss Antonio Conte recently insisted the 29-year-old features in his long-term plans although the admission wasn’t enough to stop stories linking the Spaniard to AC Milan.
Fabregas had used social media to strongly deny any rift between him and Conte and, after scoring two goals in extratime to send Chelsea into the fourth round, the midfielder took aim at his critics.
“It was a bit unfair they scored twice in the first half, they scored two goals although they were probably our mistakes, not focus maybe, but we played quite well,” he told Sky Sports.
“We were quite comfortable but we know they are a dangerous team on the counter and this is what they did — and we paid for it.
“We showed great character as we’ve been showing the whole season.
“I was happy to play, first of all, from the start and secondly if I can help the team then fantastic.
“Hopefully this will shut a few journalists, dailies, a few whatever who were talking rubbish all the time and (help me) focus on what is important, Chelsea winning and playing well. I know what I can do.”
Conte suggested improving the defensive side of his game is Fabregas’ most likely route back into the first team.
Although the Italian praised Fabregas, Conte was not ready to offer any guarantees.
“Cesc is Chelsea’s player, I am happy about him, for his attitude and his behaviour during training sessions,” Conte told reporters.
“In my opinion he’s improving a lot in many aspects, above all the defensive situations.
“I’m very clear with my players: when a player deserves to play, I put him in the team.”
Fabregas’ former club Arsenal are up next in Saturday’s London derby at the Emirates.
“All the players in my squad have the possibility to play against Arsenal,” said Conte.
“There are three days before the game and they have the opportunity to show me during the training sessions — to convince me to put them in.
“I want my players to create good competition and game by game give me the opportunity to choose the best line-up.”
Chelsea’s poor defending, which allowed Shinji Okazaki to put Leicester 2-0 up with a first half brace, did not sit well with Conte, although he praised the character shown by his players after Gary Cahill launched the fightback on the stroke of the interval and Cesar Azpilicueta volleyed in a sensational equaliser.
“I am not happy about the two goals we conceded but I saw a great reaction from the players and this is very important,” said Conte.
“They showed the will to win — the will to go through to the next round. — Agencies