Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has conceded the absence of N’Golo Kante hurt them on Sunday after going down 1-0 to Premier League leaders Manchester City.
The Italian opted to play without a recognised striker at the Etihad Stadium as Eden Hazard started in the most advanced position, with Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud only making the bench.
Hazard was completely ineffective after finding himself isolated up front as the Blues defended in numbers and were pegged back in their own half for the majority of the match.
The defending league champions held out until half-time, with Bernardo Silva breaking the deadlock 35 seconds after the restart to move City ever closer to the title.
Conte was dealt a blow on the eve of the clash when Kante fell ill, which saw Cesc Fabregas partner Danny Drinkwater in the middle of the park, and the manager admitted they missed the industrious French midfielder.
He also defended the approach his team adopted against the newly-crowned EFL Cup champions, suggesting they did well to keep the scoreline down to just one goal.
“If you give City space behind us the game can finish not 1-0,” Conte told Sky Sports after the game.
“It’s not good enough but this is the truth, I don’t think this is because of the tactics. But the game was this and we tried to do our best.
“It’s not simple to play against Man City. They have great intensity of every moment of the game, we tried to do this and defend well but we conceded a goal after 30 seconds of the second half.
“It’s very difficult to come back from that but don’t forget we were missing N’Golo Kante who is a crucial player for us and our balance.”