September 29, 2017 / 3:35 PM / 20 days ago

Conte not surprised by Morata's solid start at Chelsea

Soccer Football - Champions League - Atletico Madrid vs Chelsea - Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid, Spain - September 27, 2017 Chelsea’s Alvaro Morata celebrates after the match. REUTERS/Paul Hanna

(Reuters) - Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata has adapted well to the physical demands of regularly starting for the Premier League champions and his recent form is no surprise, manager Antonio Conte said ahead of Saturday’s game against league leaders Manchester City.

Former Real Madrid and Juventus forward Morata has made a strong start in English football, scoring six goals in as many games to tie with Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku and City’s Sergio Aguero as the league’s top scorers.

Morata also scored in Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Atletico Madrid in the Champions League and was seen limping after the game. But Conte says the 24-year-old is fully fit to face City at Stamford Bridge.

“I am not surprised because I know Alvaro very well. To arrive and to go well in this league is not simple,” Conte told reporters on Friday.

“He has improved his physical condition. This is his first chance to play regularly as a No. 9. Don’t forget his experiences at Juventus and Real Madrid, he didn’t play regularly.”

Conte said suspended defender David Luiz, who was sent off against Arsenal earlier this month, will be missed during the City game.

“He is big a loss for us because he is playing well. He is not a player who is used getting red cards,” Conte added.

“He is a good player with discipline on the pitch. I was a player and I understand that sometimes this can happen but once is OK.”

Conte also said that playmaker Eden Hazard was ready for his first league start of the season after an impressive mid-week display against Atletico, while midfielder Danny Drinkwater would miss the City game through injury.

Chelsea are third in the standings, three points behind leaders City, and beat Pep Guardiola’s side in both league games last season.

“Manchester City are a very good team, but last season it was the same. They’ve improved a lot this season with their signings, they’ve started well and have a lot of confidence,” Conte added.

“We’ve prepared for the game in only one day. It will not be easy.”

Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru Editing by Jeremy Gaunt

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