Keeping Chelsea’s new team happy is an exciting test

Graham Potter accepted that there will be frustration among some of his players when he begins the task of integrating new Chelsea signings after a blistering transfer window in January.

Enzo Fernandez’s deadline day arrival for a British record fee brought eight the club’s signings during the window, and Potter must decide by 11pm on Thursday which three of them he will include in his Champions League squad.

Potter admitted there will be “uncomfortable talks”, with issues over his inflated team selection inevitably spilling over into the club’s Premier League campaign, with 33 first-team players on the books.

Four injured players are expected to return for Fulham’s visit to Stamford Bridge on Friday night, with Ben Chilwell, Reece James, Raheem Sterling and Ruben Loftus-Cheek all fit enough to play any role. The club is waiting to find out if Fernández will receive authorization in time to participate.

The returning faces are likely to put more pressure on Potter to placate his team following owner Todd Boehly’s spending spree, but he was optimistic the added competition can work in the team’s favor.

“Challenge is the right word,” Potter said. “I’m certainly not complaining about it. It’s exciting. It’s a test for me, of course, and for the staff, but it’s exciting.

“We have a lot of really good players. We have to create an environment where there is healthy competition and they can push each other, but at the same time understand that sometimes there is going to be frustration, because only 11 can play. That’s how it is.

Chelsea owner Todd Boehly went on a spree in January (John Walton/PA)

“We have many important matches and we need to improve our results. It’s about playing, supporting the team and being ready to play.”

Potter’s first test will come when he unveils his selection for the Champions League knockout stages on Thursday night, with an additional three players who can be added to the roster from early in the season.

The players may have played for another team in Europe during the season, meaning Fernández and his new signing Joao Félix are eligible for inclusion. Chelsea plays Borussia Dortmund in the round of 16 first leg on February 15.

“We know who we need to talk to,” Potter added. “There are going to be some awkward conversations. That is the reality of where we are. Only 11 can play, only a certain number can be on the squad.

Fulham vs Chelsea – Premier League – Craven Cottage

Joao Félix can play for Chelsea in the Champions League (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“There are always going to be players who are disappointed. It is about being as honest, open, respectful and transparent as possible.

“You have to create an environment where you respect the fact that people want to play and compete and help the team, but they have to be patient.

“If you spend money, the external noise goes up. I understand that.

“I’ve always said that resources are one thing, spending money is one thing, but you have to be able to align them, you have to be able to make the right decisions, you have to be able to provide a culture, a team, an environment.

“It is not the amount you spend that achieves success. It is more than that.

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