Conte keen for Cahill to play ahead of World Cup

Antonio Conte said Chelsea will be underdogs against Manchester United in the FA Cup final. – AFP

Antonio Conte said Chelsea will be underdogs against Manchester United in the FA Cup final. – AFP

He was previously England's vice-captain to Wayne Rooney before Southgate took the reins and Conte stressed that Cahill's dressing-room maturity has helped fill the void left by John Terry's departure.

The Blues' chances of success hinge on Antonio Conte getting his team selection and tactics right for each of their remaining five matches, starting with Saturday's Premier League fixture away to Swansea City.

It is that sort of pedigree that makes the 32-year-old an obvious pick for Southgate in Russian Federation, according to Conte, who led Italy to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016.

The west London club managed to close the gap to within just two points of Spurs - though Mauricio Pochettino's men have a game in hand - as they edged out Swansea City 1-0.

Abraham has also made his debut for England, and Conte has indicated that the 20-year-old could have an important part to play for Chelsea in the future.

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"I think the players and I, we are trying to do our best".

But the French midfielder insists he will be fully fit when the World Cup kicks off this summer in Russian Federation. "Last season we won the Premier League, this season in the league we are struggling".

Conte added: "We're talking about a player with great experience". Also because I think he deserves this.

"I think then there are, for sure, other situations that we have to improve, but (against Swansea) I think we had good balance with the three midfielders".

"I don't know if he (David Luiz) will play again this season". He may be in the twilight of his career at the Bridge and indeed on the global stage, but his experience and the motivation for one last hurrah for club and country could make him a serious asset to Conte as he bids to salvage something memorable from Chelsea's otherwise disappointing season.

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