Chelsea boss Conte: Luiz had a birthday party...?

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Antonio Conte has backed Gary Cahill to force his way back into the England squad in time for this summer's World Cup, saying that the Chelsea captain deserves to be on the plane to Russian Federation.

He was previously England's vice-captain to Wayne Rooney before Southgate took the reins and Conte stressed that Cahill's dressing-room maturity has helped fill the void left by John Terry's departure.

Cahill is expected to be England's most-capped outfield player in Russian Federation, but the centre-back is not guaranteed a starting role due to finding himself in and out of the Blues team this season.

Should Chelsea somehow succeed in overhauling Tottenham - who also have four games remaining - or indeed third-place Liverpool who have played a game more but have an eight point advantage over the Blues, Conte would be feted a hero once more.

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Luiz held a big birthday bash in London earlier this week to celebrate turning 31, which was attended by several of the Chelsea players.

Speaking to reporters at Cobham on Friday, Conte said of the defender: "I don't know, I don't know".

But he has returned to Conte's first XI for the past four matches and put in assured performances at the heart of the back three, a switch from the position on the left of the centre-backs that he filled during last season's Premier League title triumph.

'This season has been important for players to try to take on leadership. "He has to make the best choices for the national team and I'm sure he'll make the right decision". "I think Gary deserves to play". "I think he deserves this".

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