Conte ‘ready to accept every decision’ on Ivanovic’s Chelsea future as focus switches to Liverpool

Antonio Conte has said he will “evaluate a lot of things” in regards to the future of Branislav Ivanovic, with the Serbian defender expected to leave Chelsea this month.

Branislav Ivanovic, second left, after scoring Chelsea's third goal against Brentford in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday. Eddie Keogh / Reuters
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Antonio Conte has said he will “evaluate a lot of things” in regards to the future of Branislav Ivanovic, with the Serbian defender expected to leave Chelsea this month.

Ivanovic, 32, started the first six Premier League games of the season but since the switch in formation following the September defeat to Arsenal, he has been limited to just seven substitute appearances.

Ivanovic has been linked with a move to West Bromwich Albion, and the presence of manager Tony Pulis at Stamford Bridge during Chelsea’s 4-0 FA Cup fourth round victory over Brentford on Saturday has served to increase the speculation.

The Serbian defender produced an impressive cameo from the bench against Brentford, scoring once and creating the penalty chance for Chelsea’s fourth goal.

When Conte was asked about Ivanovic’s Chelsea future, the Italian suggested that he could move on, but the decision would rest with the player himself.

“I’m pleased for Ivan to score a goal and it’s important to evaluate a lot of things,” Conte said.

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“This season he is not playing a lot with us. It’s not easy to accept this decision but he knows the situation. Players must make the best decision for him and his family and I’m ready to accept every decision.

“He deserves great respect for his Chelsea career and he has won a lot.”

The Chelsea side that defeated Brentford so comprehensively featured a number of the squad’s younger players, including defender Nathan Ake, who was recently recalled from his loan spell at Bournemouth, and midfielders Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Nathaniel Chalobah. There was also a rare start for Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi, who converted the late penalty.

“The FA Cup is a good opportunity to see the improvement of these young players,” Conte said. “I am satisfied with what I saw today.

“All the players are totally involved in our idea of football — in our project. It’s very important for me.

“For instance, to score a goal is always important for a forward. Michy works very hard for the team, and is improving.”

Conte’s attention has now switched to Tuesday’s Premier League showdown with Liverpool at Anfield.

Seemingly Chelsea’s biggest title rivals based on their early season form, Liverpool’s poor start to 2017 has seen Jurgen Klopp’s side fall 10 points behind the pacesetters.

But Conte is expecting nothing less than major test from Liverpool, who could go some way to reviving their title ambitions with a victory.

“It will be a really tough game but after that it will be 15 games to the finish line and you want to continue going this way to keep them in the distance,” he said.

“They can fight to the end.”

* The National staff

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