Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has told Eden Hazard and his other top players to prepare to be rested over the busy Christmas period.
The Italian believes it will not be possible for him to use his best players as much as he would like and wants his stars to accept that.
Chelsea are preparing to play Swansea City at home on Wednesday night and Conte said: ‘I’d like to start every game with the best players but, at the same time, this is not possible.
Otherwise I don’t protect them. I take a risk I think is not right to take.
‘Especially because the season has just started and we have a long season. For this reason, I have to try to protect every player. At the same time, it’s not simple, not easy to leave great players (out) to rest. But I have to do this.
‘I want the best for the team, the best for the players. I try to protect my team and my players.’
Willian’s fine goal against Liverpool rescued a Premier League point at Anfield at the weekend.
Asked whether he has a task to keep him happy due to a lack of game time, Conte answered: ‘Why are you asking about Willian and not [Eden] Hazard at the start of the season, and not Pedro the same? They have the same situation.
‘Every game I have to make the best decision. My players must be happy to stay in Chelsea and to play for Chelsea and to play for our fans. They must be happy.
‘If they start the game, or if they stay on the bench and come on… I think I have clever players that understand the situation and accept the situation.’
The death of former Chelsea coach and Crawley manager Dermot Drummy, 56, was announced on Monday. The Blues had flags at half-mast at their training ground on Tuesday and the players will wear black armbands in their Premier League clash with Swansea City.
‘I want to pass my condolences to his family and friends,’ Conte said. ‘It is of great importance to have this type of figure work for Chelsea in the academy, to develop the young players. For sure, this is a big loss.’