Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has stressed that David Luiz’s exclusion from recent matchdays squads is solely because of his knee problem rather than the alleged bust-up, which is being talked about in the media. The Brazil international has featured in just a solitary Champions League game since he was axed from the matchday squad, prior to the Blues’ 1-0 win over Manchester United last month.

Speaking in the lead-up to the Southampton game, Conte insisted that he is saying the truth on Luiz’s injury, who is expected to be sidelined for an indefinite period with an inflammation in his knee, he said, “I understand that someone thinks I’m not telling the truth. I’m disappointed about this but I can understand it. I’d rather tell you a bad truth rather than a good lie.

“David has a big inflammation in his knee, and we are trying to solve the situation with the doctor. It is important to assess the situation day by day, and to try to solve this problem. I don’t know when he’ll be able to come back but with the doctor and the medical department we are trying to solve this situation.”

In Luiz’s absence, Andreas Christensen has taken his opportunity with both hands, and he is now regarded as one among the first names in the Blues’ team sheet. The Denmark international enjoyed a successful two-spell on loan with Borussia Monchengladbach, and it appears that he is finally delivering the goods for the Blues, who have one of the smallest squads in the division.

Chelsea are currently 14 points behind table-toppers Manchester City after 17 games into the campaign, and their title challenge looks more or less over unless they get assistance from clubs around them. The Citizens have beaten four of the so-called big six this campaign, and they face Tottenham Hotspur in their last big outing before the turn of the year.