Chelsea boss, Antonio Conte, look set to call on his defenders to step forward in the wake of N’Golo Kante’s hamstring injury that could keep the France international out for up to four weeks.
It would be recalled that Kante limped out of France’s win in Bulgaria last Saturday and, although Chelsea are awaiting the results of a second scan, Conte fears his midfield dynamo will be out for the next seven games.
Speaking ahead of the trip across London to rock-bottom Crystal Palace, the Italian said, “We are going to do a scan next week to check his situation, to see if he’s improving, but for sure he’s got a hamstring problem.”
“This is a big loss for us. We know very well the importance of Kante in our team and we don’t have another player with the same characteristics. We only have Tiemoue Bakayoko and Cesc Fabregas [in midfield] and we have to approach seven games in one month.”
“We have to find different solutions and adapt some defenders into midfield or give young players opportunities, like [Ethan] Ampadu or [Kyle] Scott.”
“The previous scan [showed he would be out] maybe around 20-25 days. You must pay great attention to understand the situation to see if this [second] scan is better than before.”
“Injuries can happen during the international break but also in games in the league. [Alvaro] Morata [was injured] against Manchester City and Kante was with the national team. This can happen.”
“You have to hope to always have your players in good condition but sometimes you must be prepared if there are injuries.”
“I hope to have Morata back very soon, hopefully for the next game against Roma [on Wednesday].”
“Danny Drinkwater is progressing well and we must have patience with him.”
David Luiz has been called to play in the defensive midfield role in the past. The centre-half will most likely to step into Kante’s role. However, Conte is wary of simply shifting a problem from one area of his team to another.
He said, “We are talking about adapting a player that for me is very important. David Luiz is one of the best central defenders. If I can, I prefer to not change a lot. If you try to find a solution [in midfield] you lose something with the defence.”
“When I decided to utilize him in midfield against Tottenham, we played with three central midfielders. That could be an option if I play with three central midfielders but I don’t want to change a lot.”