LONDON — Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte has confirmed that John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic are both fit to face West Ham in the EFL Cup fifth round on Wednesday, while Willian is also available again after compassionate leave.
Terry has not featured for more than five weeks since straining ankle ligaments in the final minute of Chelsea’s 2-2 draw with Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium last month, though the 35-year-old has been on the bench for the last two matches against Leicester City and Manchester United.
Ivanovic has also been absent due to a knock picked up on international duty with Serbia while Willian was granted permission to fly back to Brazil to attend the funeral of his mother, who passed away during the break after a lengthy battle with cancer.
Asked about Terry’s physical state, Conte said on Tuesday: “He’s fit to start. He’s in a good shape. Tomorrow I’ll decide the starting XI but John is fit. He trained very well this week, last week, and he’s ready.
“For Ivanovic, he’s better. He started to train with us yesterday, also today, but it’s normal after an injury he needs a bit of time to find the right shape to come back with our squad.
“Cesc [Fabregas] is still not well. We must wait because he had a muscular problem and we are waiting. We must be patient because the muscular problem is tight. I hope to see him very soon with the team in the training session.
“Willy is in a good moment now [mentally]. Before the moment wasn’t good for him. You know the reason. He’s a fantastic man, a very good boy and we love him because he’s a fantastic man before a fantastic player.”
Monday evening saw Kurt Zouma play his first competitive football since February, lasting 45 minutes of Chelsea under-23s’ 2-2 draw with Derby County in the Premier League 2 at Aldershot, as the 21-year-old steps up his recovery from an anterior cruciate knee ligament injury.
Conte is encouraged by Zouma’s progress, and says he is optimistic that the France international will be ready to begin full contact training with the first team again after the West Ham clash, though no date has yet been set for his availability for selection.
“I’m pleased for this because Zouma is a young player but he’s a good player, and I hope to see him very soon,” Conte added. “Very soon for me is when we start the training sessions after West Ham. I hope to see him work with us but I’m very happy that he played a little yesterday. He had a good answer in the physical aspect after the game.”