Chelsea news: Antonio Conte hopes to keep Blues squad together after John Obi Mikel departs for China

Mikel joined Tianjin TEDA on Friday, following former team-mate Oscar to the Chinese Super League after the Brazilian signed for Shanghai SIPG for £52million last month

Matt McGeehan
Friday 06 January 2017 16:38
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Mikel made a total of 374 appearances for Chelsea during his time at the club
Mikel made a total of 374 appearances for Chelsea during his time at the club

Antonio Conte hopes John Obi Mikel will be the last player to swap Chelsea for China.

Mikel joined Tianjin TEDA on Friday, following former team-mate Oscar to the Chinese Super League after the Brazilian signed for Shanghai SIPG for £52million last month.

Nigeria midfielder Mikel, who failed to break into the side under Conte this season, spent 10 years at Stamford Bridge, making 374 appearances and winning 11 trophies.

Striker Diego Costa, who has scored 14 goals this season to lead Chelsea's march to the top of the Premier League, has been among the names linked with a move to China.

Blues head coach Conte said: "I hope this offer from China finish with Mikel and Oscar.

"I think that it's important now to remain with this squad."

Conte says Chelsea are still looking to buy in the difficult winter transfer market, but are "not close" to recruiting anyone.

And he ruled out the need to sign another central defender, with Kurt Zouma available again following a long-term knee injury.

"I don't think we need another central defender, no," Conte said.

Conte said Zouma and striker Michy Batshuayi will start Sunday's FA Cup third round tie with Peterborough at Stamford Bridge. Captain John Terry is also expected to start.

Batshuayi, a £33m summer signing from Marseille yet to start in the Premier League, could play alongside Costa. Conte will make a final decision after Saturday's training session.

"I have a good opportunity in this game to see Michy from the start," Conte said. I think it's important. He's working a lot. I'm seeing that he's improving.

"Sunday for him, but also for other players, could be a good opportunity to show me that he deserves to play more in future."

Conte discussed Zouma's injury with Chelsea in May, prior to his July arrival as boss, and has had to be patient with the France defender.

John Obi Mikel has been at Chelsea for the last 10 years (Getty)

"He's ready to play, to restart his career," Conte added.

Chelsea are seeking to respond from their 13-game Premier League winning run coming to an end with defeat at Tottenham on Wednesday night. It was their first league loss since the September defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal.

And Conte insists the Blues will not take Peterborough lightly.

"One defeat is enough for us now," Conte added. "It's important to play this game on Sunday in the FA Cup, to play good football, to try to win.

"In every game our mentality must be that we have to try to win every game. FA Cup or league (it) doesn't change.

"I want always the same mentality, the right mentality, a winning mentality."

Conte will be looking to see a response from his side following their 2-0 defeat by Tottenham 

Two years ago League One Bradford came from two goals down to beat a Chelsea side which went on to win the Premier League title.

Asked if Conte would settle for the same scenario, he said he would consider it if the league title could be guaranteed.

Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo this week said Conte could stay "forever".

Conte knows football is fickle.

"I remember only three months ago that someone said that the club wanted to sack me," Conte added.

"In football you can change your opinion quickly. I'm in a great club and I want to stay for a long period.

"I have a good experience in football, that above all the manager, our life is not simple.

"But I want to tell thanks to Mike for his words. I hope to have a good path with Chelsea and to continue to work, to improve my players, to try to win trophies."

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