Chelsea 3, Newcastle United 0
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte admits Michy Batshuayi could leave the club on loan this week despite his two goals sinking Newcastle and sending the Blues into the fifth round of the FA Cup.
Batshuayi struck twice in the latter stages of the first half to put the hosts firmly in control long before wing-back Marcos Alonso rounded off the scoring with a trademark free-kick.
The Belgium international is thought to want more regular first-team football ahead of this summer’s World Cup and, with Chelsea still in contention to sign Edin Dzeko from Roma before Wednesday’s transfer deadline, Conte concedes Batshuayi’s future remains uncertain.
“If the club decides to add another player I don’t know if Michy wants to stay or go on loan. In this case this is a player decision, not my decision,” he said.
“I am ready to keep working with these players, because I am very happy to work with these players, but I don’t know what will happen in the transfer market.”
Conte added that he would prefer to have Batshuayi among a group of three strikers, along with the convalescing Alvaro Morata, but reiterated that he felt the 24-year-old had “a lot of space for improvement”.
“It is important to score as it puts you in the position to win, but at the same time it is important that the striker has to work for the team in the best way,” the Italian said.
“Then we have to decide whether or not we continue to work with two strikers or have three, like Alvaro and Batshuayi. I would be happy in both cases.”
Batshuayi’s brace took his tally to 10 club goals for the season, although the £33m signing from Marseille in summer 2016 remains indisputably behind Morata in the pecking order.
He had the simplest of tasks to open the scoring against Newcastle, tapping in after eden Hazard hared onto Pedro’s glorious diagonal pass and offloaded to Alonso, who squared to Batshuayi.
Thirteen minutes later, just seconds before the interval, Batshuayi struck again, albeit with the help of Jamaal Lascelles, whose attempted block only sent the ball looping over his own goalkeeper, Karl Darlow.
Darlow denied Alonso early in the second half when he unleashed a first-time volley, but the Spaniard registered on 72 minutes when he whipped a set-piece over the wall and under the visitors’ crossbar.
Victory was only Chelsea’s second in eight games, their first at Stamford Bridge since the turn of the year and saw them bounce back from Wednesday’s Carabao Cup semi-final defeat at Arsenal.