Football News

Chelsea boss Lampard unsure on Kante fitness ahead of Man Utd opener

By Ollie Thomas

Published: 19:54, 4 August 2019

Frank Lampard has admitted that he doesn’t know whether N’Golo Kante will be fit in time for the start of the season.

Kante featured for the first time in pre-season against Borussia Monchengladbach when he came off the bench in the Blues’ 2-2 draw. Despite the appearance, Lampard remained cryptic as to whether Kante will start at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Chelsea’s midfield headache: Five things to know…

  • Lampard goes into the new season with a few potential midfield combinations in mind.
  • Kante, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi are all carrying injuries.
  • Mateo Kovacic played alongside Jorginho against Monchengladbach.
  • Mason Mount and Ross Barkley are in fierce competition for the No 10 spot.
  • Lampard has rotated between 4-3-3, 4-4-1-1 and 4-1-2-1-2 in pre-season.

Speaking to the media after their final pre-season stalemate, Lampard said it had “always been the plan” to give Kante 20 minutes at the end of the game.

He said: “He’s working a little bit now and it was just to give him the feeling of match time as he hasn’t been able to do that yet as it’s an awkward injury.

“I just wanted him to feel it and us to see it as you cannot replicate it unless you do it. It was a good opportunity to do that for him and we’ll work hard on getting him fit.

“Who knows if he’ll be ready for next week or not, but we’ll work hard for that.”

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Where will Kante play?

The French midfielder generally made his name at Leicester City during their extraordinary title-winning season. Playing alongside Chelsea team-mate Danny Drinkwater, Kante was known for his unbelievable stamina and tenacious tackling; a characteristic which proved vital to Claudio Ranieri’s side’s success.

Kante earned a move to Chelsea, where he won the league and was named PFA Player of the Year in another remarkable season playing defensively in 2017.

However, Maurizio Sarri changed Kante’s position. He gave the 28-year-old more attacking responsibility and pushed him up the pitch. Kante scored five goals during 2018/19 and adapted well, but question marks were raised as to what his natural position really is.

Given Chelsea’s plethora of attacking midfielders, it would be surprising if Kante didn’t become Chelsea’s primary defensive midfielder. Mount, Barkley, Kovacic and Loftus-Cheek are all far more capable of pushing forward and Chelsea’s only other defensive midfielder is Tiemoue Bakayoko, who has been unimpressive in pre-season, to say the least.

Whatever happens, everyone knows Kante will surely be Lampard’s main midfield man.