Antonio Conte described Michy Batshuayi as a “young player with great potential” after the striker scored twice during Chelsea’s FA Cup win over Newcastle.
The Belgium striker has had limited first-team opportunities under Conte, who has said Batshuayi could leave on loan this month.
Marcos Alonso added a second-half free-kick to Batshuayi’s first-half double as Chelsea eased into the fifth round.
“We are talking about a powerful player because he is strong physically, and for sure he has a lot of space for improvement,” said Chelsea boss Conte.
“I don’t know if it was his best game, but it was very important for the team and for him. For the striker to score is very important for confidence.”
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Batshuayi rounded off a superb move to open the scoring for the 2017 finalists after the home side had made a slow start before putting the finishing touch to another Chelsea break just before half-time.
Alonso’s free-kick, which took the defender to a career-best seven goals in a season, sealed the win for the home side with Newcastle unable to build on an encouraging opening 30 minutes.
“It was a good performance. It wasn’t easy because Newcastle prepared a very defensive game. When the draw faces you with another Premier League team it’s never easy,” added Conte.
Batshuayi puts his hand up
With Chelsea seemingly desperate to land a striker before next week’s deadline, Batshuayi certainly gave Conte something to think about.
Conte has previously said that if the club signs another striker this month the Belgium international will be allowed to leave on loan.
Batshuayi also scored in the FA Cup third-round replay against Norwich, although you need to go back to October for his last league goals, a double in the win over Watford, having been largely restricted to substitute appearances this season.
Edin Dzeko, Andy Carroll and Peter Crouch have all been linked with January moves to Chelsea.
But Batshuayi has done all he can to press his claims after joining Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata as the only Chelsea players to reach double figures this season, his brace on Sunday taking his personal tally to 10.
“I don’t know if we will be able to get another player, but if we do, it doesn’t mean Michy has to go on loan. We have a lot of competition,” said Conte.
“If the club decides to add another player, I don’t know if Michy wants to stay or wants to go on loan. In this case it will be the player’s decision, not my decision.”
Conte feels he needs at least three strikers in his squad to compete on all fronts, and Morata and Batshuayi are Chelsea’s only recognised forwards with Hazard considered a third option in attack if needed.
“It’s very good for the team and I’m very happy. When I have a chance I want to take it. I work everyday and today I am very happy here.” said Batshuayi.
When asked about his future, Batshuayi said: “I don’t know, it’s better you speak to Conte.”
The result ended a disappointing week for Chelsea on a high as Conte’s side bounced back from their League Cup defeat by Arsenal.
Despite four league titles in Italy and England as a manager, Conte has yet to win a major domestic cup competition, with his Italian Super Cup success with Juventus coming in a competition normally played as a pre-season curtain-raiser.
He enjoyed plenty of cup success as a player though, and now awaits the draw for the fifth round, with a Champions League last-16 tie with Barcelona also looming large.
Not all right on the Tyne
Newcastle started well enough, but found goalkeeper Willy Caballero at the top of his game in the first 45 minutes, and the visitors were unable to match their first-half chances after the break.
The first half an hour or so will give manager Rafa Benitez some comfort with Wednesday’s visit of Burnley his main focus with Newcastle just a point above the relegation zone.
“We did well in the first half, had chances, put them under pressure. We made a mistake in the counter-attack for the first goal and after second goal we were unlucky. There is a big difference to play Chelsea at their home and be 2-0 down,” said Benitez.
“I am pleased with the team in the first half and disappointed we lost the game, now we concentrate on the league.”
A win at St James’ Park would ensure Newcastle fans will quickly forget this disjointed display as they look to end a two-match winless run in the league following a draw with Swansea and defeat by Manchester City.
The transfer window will close not long after the full-time whistle on Wednesday but it remains to be seen if Benitez will add reinforcements to his squad with the club in limbo over a potential sale.
One thing is for certain, Benitez will want to hold onto Jonjo Shelvey, who was somewhat unlucky not to score in the first half.
The former Liverpool and Swansea midfielder has been linked with a move away in January, but while not a guarantee, hopes of Premier League survival will receive a significant boost should Shelvey remain in black and white come February 1.
“I hope we can do something,” said Benitez when asked about his transfer plans over the coming days.
What they said
Chelsea captain Gary Cahill speaking to BT Sport: “It was decent in the end. I thought we started a bit rusty. We needed that win and to progress is the most important.
“We need to try to reach the final rounds in this having gone out of the EFL Cup the other night so this is very important.
“After the first 10-15 minutes we got on with it. Especially Michy, he took his opportunity today.”
Man of the match – Michy Batshuayi (Chelsea)
The key stats
- Chelsea have now reached the FA Cup fifth round in 18 of their last 20 seasons, only failing to do so in 2011 and 2015.
- Michy Batshuayi has scored more FA Cup goals for Chelsea with five than any other player under Antonio Conte’s tutelage.
- Newcastle have now lost six consecutive games at Stamford Bridge in all competitions, conceding 18 goals while scoring just twice.
- Marcos Alonso has been directly involved in 10 goals this season in all competitions, more than any other defender in the Premier League.
- Alonso has scored three goals from direct free-kicks in all competitions this season, more than any other Premier League player. Philippe Coutinho with two is the only other player to have scored more than one.
- Eden Hazard has been directly involved in nine goals in his last nine games against Newcastle United in all competitions.
Chelsea stay at Stamford Bridge for Wednesday’s return to the Premier League against Bournemouth (19:45 GMT), while Newcastle entertain Burnley at the same time.
Match ends, Chelsea 3, Newcastle United 0.
Second Half ends, Chelsea 3, Newcastle United 0.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Delay in match Antonio Rüdiger (Chelsea) because of an injury.
Delay in match Joselu (Newcastle United) because of an injury.
Attempt saved. Michy Batshuayi (Chelsea) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal.
Gary Cahill (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Christian Atsu (Newcastle United).
Attempt missed. Daniel Drinkwater (Chelsea) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right. Assisted by Marcos Alonso.
Attempt saved. Michy Batshuayi (Chelsea) right footed shot from the left side of the six yard box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Marcos Alonso.
Substitution, Newcastle United. Christian Atsu replaces Isaac Hayden.
Hand ball by Massadio Haidara (Newcastle United).
Substitution, Chelsea. Callum Hudson-Odoi replaces Pedro.
Corner, Chelsea. Conceded by Karl Darlow.
Attempt saved. Davide Zappacosta (Chelsea) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top right corner. Assisted by Ross Barkley.
Attempt saved. Pedro (Chelsea) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Ethan Ampadu with a through ball.
Attempt saved. Jacob Murphy (Newcastle United) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner.
Corner, Newcastle United. Conceded by Daniel Drinkwater.
Substitution, Chelsea. Ethan Ampadu replaces N’Golo Kanté.
Substitution, Newcastle United. Jacob Murphy replaces Javier Manquillo.
Foul by Daniel Drinkwater (Chelsea).
Ciaran Clark (Newcastle United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Davide Zappacosta (Chelsea).
Massadio Haidara (Newcastle United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Chelsea. Ross Barkley replaces Eden Hazard.
Goal! Chelsea 3, Newcastle United 0. Marcos Alonso (Chelsea) from a free kick with a left footed shot to the top right corner.
Davide Zappacosta (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Henri Saivet (Newcastle United).
Corner, Chelsea. Conceded by Jonjo Shelvey.
Attempt blocked. Daniel Drinkwater (Chelsea) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Corner, Chelsea. Conceded by Javier Manquillo.
Substitution, Newcastle United. Joselu replaces Dwight Gayle.
Gary Cahill (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Dwight Gayle (Newcastle United).
Attempt missed. Daniel Drinkwater (Chelsea) left footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Eden Hazard.
Foul by Antonio Rüdiger (Chelsea).
Massadio Haidara (Newcastle United) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Offside, Chelsea. Michy Batshuayi tries a through ball, but Eden Hazard is caught offside.
Attempt saved. Marcos Alonso (Chelsea) left footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Davide Zappacosta with a cross.
Attempt missed. Henri Saivet (Newcastle United) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the left following a set piece situation.