Todd Kane targets Chelsea starting spot under Antonio Conte

Chelsea's Todd Kane is hoping to challenge for a first-team place under Antonio Conte in the second half of the season as he continues his lengthy rehabilitation from a serious knee injury.

Kane, 23, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee while playing on loan for NEC Nijmegen in April and has been gradually rebuilding his strength and fitness at Cobham alongside Kurt Zouma, who suffered a similar injury during Chelsea's Premier League clash with Manchester United in February.

Zouma is expected to make his long-awaited first-team return at some point after the October international break, but Kane -- who joined Chelsea's academy at the age of seven and is yet to make his senior debut -- says it will be a little longer before his body is ready to make the same step.

"I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel," the defender told the Daily Mail. "I've made good progress. It is five months now since my operation. I am trying to get stronger in my legs. The club have been great.

"I'll be doing a bit of non-contact training in six to eight weeks, starting to get a feel of the ball. I will train with the younger age groups to get used to moving, then work my way up and get match fitness.

"It has been the hardest thing I have had to deal with in my career. I have never had a serious injury. It has made me grow as a person, made my mind much stronger. I just have to be patient and not rush it."

Kane, an industrious right-back, was expected to challenge for a first-team place at Stamford Bridge in preseason after impressing in the Eredivisie, and Chelsea underlined their commitment to the academy graduate by tying him to a new three-year contract earlier this month.

Conte has encountered numerous problems with Chelsea's defending this season, and Kane believes his skillset marks him out as a player who could thrive under the Italian's guidance.

"From looking at his previous jobs he wants to play 3-5-2 formation," Kane said. "What he did using it with Italy was incredible. But right now he is playing the formation that suits the players best.

"Once I am match fit, touch wood, he likes me and wants to get me involved. That formation would suit me down to the ground. I have a good engine to get up and down and my game would come on leaps and bounds."