LONDON -- Antonio Conte has backed Nathan Ake to replace Gary Cahill on the left of Chelsea's back three for Saturday's FA Cup semifinal against Tottenham, with the England international sidelined by a bout of gastroenteritis.
Cahill was hospitalised on Tuesday on the advice of Chelsea medical staff after arriving at Cobham with fever-like symptoms and while he trained alone on Friday, Conte said it was "impossible" for his vice-captain to feature at Wembley.
Ake has made just two appearances -- both in the FA Cup -- for Chelsea since being recalled from loan at Bournemouth in January, but Conte insisted that the 22-year-old is the most natural candidate to take Cahill's place alongside David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta.
"Ake thinks he deserves to have this chance, to play," Conte said. "Because he is showing me in all this period, always a great commitment. He worked very hard. His behaviour was great, was fantastic, and he never said anything [about a lack of opportunities].
"Don't forget that Ake was playing every game with Bournemouth, and he wanted to come and to stay with us to try to work together and to help us to fight for the title. I think he's a good player and I think he's ready to have this opportunity, to have this chance.
"He deserves this opportunity and I trust him. I have no problem to take this decision."
Asked why he favoured Ake over captain John Terry -- who on Monday confirmed that he will leave Stamford Bridge after 22 years at the end of the season -- to replace Cahill, Conte explained: "I think in this system the right position [for John] is in the middle of the thee central defenders.
"In this case I think for this position Ake has the right characteristic to be the substitute for Gary, and the same [on the right], [Kurt] Zouma for Azpi."
Cahill's absence and Conte's preference for Ake ahead of Terry means that Chelsea will need to give the captain's armband to someone else at Wembley, and the Italian admitted: "This is another problem that I have to solve."
Lose against Tottenham on Saturday and Chelsea will face renewed questions over their staying power in the Premier League title race they lead by four points with six matches remaining, but Conte insisted he has seen no sign of anxiety in his players in training this week.
"I think that we have to enjoy this moment, because this moment is great for everyone," Conte added. "For me it is the first season, for my players because they worked a lot to arrive at this point and to have this kind of game, the semifinal, and to have these games to win the title.
"We have to enjoy this moment, to be compact, to help each other, to live with joy this moment because I repeat, if we think where we started this season, every one of us would have signed [up] to have this situation now."