Eddie Howe believes Chelsea will not be significantly weakened by the absence of leading scorer Diego Costa and midfielder N’Golo Kante when they host his Bournemouth team in the Premier League on Monday.
Both players, who are suspended for the match, have been key to the league leaders’ success this season but Howe said Chelsea still had enough strength in depth to be a tough proposition for 10th-placed Bournemouth.
“Chelsea have a very good squad and players of equal ability will come in,” Howe told a news conference on Friday.
“I’ve huge respect for (Chelsea manager) Antonio Conte. The way the Italy team played in the Euros was impressive. He’s stuck to his way of playing.”
Howe will not be able to play on-loan defender Nathan Ake, who is not eligible for selection against his parent club, but midfield duo Junior Stanislas (ankle) and Andrew Surman (hamstring) have an outside chance of playing.
“(Ake) will be a really big miss for us, he’s a real level-headed lad and has shown his abilities since he’s had his chance,” Howe added.
“He’s scored some big goals for us as well so he won’t be easy to replace.”
Bournemouth’s last game ended in a 3-1 home defeat by Southampton and Howe called on his players for a response against Chelsea, who are on an 11-match winning streak in the league.
“We were poor against Southampton and we’ve had time to reflect on that,” he said. “We know we need to do better.
“The strength of the league is a factor in our run of form. We have good character in the squad — we have responded to defeats well.
“Every Premier League game was daunting for us when we were first promoted. Now we’re accustomed to the pressures of this league.”