Antonio Conte insists he only substituted Tiemoue Bakayoko at half-time in Chelsea’s win over Leicester because he feared the midfielder would get sent off.
The decision raised some eyebrows with the former Monaco player struggling to make an impact since joining the Blues last summer.
But the early call to replace Bakayoko was simply because he picked up a yellow card in the first half of the FA Cup quarter-final.
‘It was a decision because he took a yellow card,’ Conte explained.
‘We are talking about a player with great physicality and I think in a game like this you have to try to prevent a second yellow card.
‘Only for this reason I decided to take him off after the first half.’
Conte also replaced Willian and Andreas Christensen during the extra-time win at the King Power Stadium.
The Chelsea manager put those down to fatigue with Chelsea having played away against Barcelona in midweek.
‘Willian was very tired. I think also that today he played a fantastic game. I’m very pleased with his commitment.
‘We decided to take this decision because he was very, very tired. It was the same with Christensen.
‘After a game in the Champions League it wasn’t easy for us to play 120 minutes.’
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Chelsea’s win sees them through to the semi-finals where they will be the favourites to advance past Southampton. Having reached the final last year, Conte is hoping his side can go all the way after losing to Arsenal last May.
‘We showed great will and a great desire to fight and to reach the semi-final.
‘We must be pleased with the character we showed against a really good team.
‘This trophy is very important for this country. Last season it was a pity to lose in the final. This season our target is to reach the final again.
‘And if we reach the final, I want to change the final result compared to last season.’