Antonio Conte Defends Chelsea Youth Record

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Antonio Conte has told Chelsea's young players to play their way into his first team, saying: "If you are good enough to play with a great team, you play."

Speaking ahead of Chelsea's EFL Cup tie against Nottingham Forest, Conte defended the club's approach to nurturing talented youngsters, insisting age is no barrier to breaking through at Stamford Bridge.

Conte was asked whether the clash with Forest would provide an opportunity for the likes of 17-year-old defender Ethan Ampadu to be part of the first team squad.

"Yes," replied Conte. "Ampadu is a young player, but I think he has good quality. He has good prospects to become a Chelsea player.

"If you are good enough to play with a great team, you play. Every coach wants to win.

"If an old player, 36-years-old, makes me happy and helps me to win, I pick him. It's the same if a young player, 16-years-old, helps me to win. I'm ready to do this also."

Conte rejected the suggestion that limited first team opportunities drove Nathaniel Chalobah, who joined Watford in July after making 10 Premier League appearances in seven years at Chelsea, away from the club.

He held up 21-year-old defender Andreas Christensen, who has made four appearances this season, as an example for other young players to follow.

"Chalobah had the chance to play," said Conte. "Don't forget last season we won the league. Don't forget last season our midfielders were Matic, Kante and Fabregas. Chalobah was the fourth midfielder.

"If you ask to play regularly with a great club, then you must deserve to play. If you show you deserve to play and can be better than these players, I'm ready to do this.

"We have a clear example with Christensen. Christensen played on loan at Borussia Moenchengladbach and now he's in our squad.

"Don't forget that my first appearance in Serie A was when I was 16. I think I'm the first person to trust in the young players, to give possibilities to them, if young players deserve this chance."

The Italian warned his players against complacency versus Forest, who have won three of their five away games this season.

"We want to do our best in every competition but it's not simple," Conte added.

"Sometimes you have the opportunity to give chances to some players who, at this moment, are not playing a lot. But these competitions in England are very tough.

"It's normal to take a risk. Nottingham Forest beat Newcastle in the previous round, so we must pay great attention."