Chelsea are preparing for the absence of N’Golo Kante after the midfielder suffered a hamstring injury during the international break. The 26-year-old was forced off after only 33 minutes during France’s match against Bulgaria. Sky Sports report that the Blues are hopeful that it won’t be a long-term problem, but the full extent of the injury isn’t known yet.
If he is to miss a few matches, it will be a huge blow for Chelsea as Kante is central to their style of play. His work rate and tenacity allow the Blues to start with a three-man defence, as he does a lot of the running in the middle of the park to ensure the team is well balanced. Since moving to England, the French international has played a part in two title-winning seasons for two different teams, which underlines the qualities he provides in the middle of the park.
His contributions haven’t gone unnoticed across Europe as the Evening Standard report that Kante has been nominated for the 2017 Ballon D’Or award. He was among the first five nominees to be announced and although he is unlikely to be a serious contender to win the award, it consolidates his reputation as one of the best in his position.
Kante has yet to suffer a dip in form since arriving in the Premier League and he has started the current campaign with a similarly impressive level of consistency in his performances. He is currently averaging 3 successful tackles and 2.29 interceptions per ninety minutes, ranking him as one of the best at winning the ball in midfield areas. Chelsea look to play a quick, incisive attacking style which centres on their midfielders being able to win the ball back in an efficient manner. They will need to replace the 26-year-old to continue succeeding with their current style.
Who can replace him?
Danny Drinkwater was signed on transfer deadline day and could be a good option to deputise for Kante, but his current fitness level is not clear. BBC Sport reported last month that he wouldn’t make his Blues’ debut until October. Although he is set to feature at some point this month, it might be a push for him to return to action this weekend, even if his former Leicester City team-mate is ruled out of the trip to Crystal Palace.
A more realistic solution for Antonio Conte is a midfield partnership of Cesc Fabregas and Tiemoue Bakayoko. They have both played a prominent role in the season so far and are good enough to cover on an interim basis. The latter is currently averaging 3.13 successful tackles and 2.23 interceptions per ninety minutes, which is a better rate than Kante, albeit the former Monaco midfielder has spent less time on the pitch.
There is no doubting Bakayoko’s ball-winning qualities, but he would have to do a lot of the running and in central areas, as Fabregas doesn’t offer a lot defensively. The Spaniard is a lot more effective in possession. He can do a job out of possession, but he won’t be anywhere near as effective as Kante.
There were times last season when Chelsea had success with a midfield of Kante and Fabregas. If the former does have to sit out this weekend, Conte will be hoping that a partnership between Bakayoko and Fabregas can have a similar level of success. Based on the reports on the injury, it seems unlikely that Kante will be missing for a sustained period of time, but given the packed fixture list for October, it would be wise for Chelsea to be cautious with him. He is too important to rush back and risk suffering a further injury to his hamstring.
Crystal Palace’s hopes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek return boosted after latest comments
The midfielder is unlikely to get what he’s after at his parent club.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek has boosted Crystal Palace‘s hopes of securing his services for another season, after claiming he will only remain with Chelsea this summer if guaranteed a regular first-team spot at Stamford Bridge next season, in quotes via Sky Sports.
The 22-year-old spent last season on loan at Selhurst Park after making just 31 appearances for Chelsea since his debut in 2014, and his immense talents have earned him a place in Gareth Southgate’s England squad this World Cup.
“I want to play as much as I can,” revealed Loftus-Cheek. “Even this past season just gone, I didn’t play as much as I would have liked because of injuries. So I still feel I need a proper season of playing, wherever it is.”
Loftus-Cheek made 25 appearances for Roy Hodgson’s outfit last term, and is still unhappy with the amount of minutes he managed, so it’s pretty safe to assume Chelsea – given the disastrous domestic season they’ve just had – won’t be bettering his previous return, or be prioritising taking chances on academy products next season.
And Palace will be keen to offer the stylish midfielder a deal to extend his stay with the former England manager, where, if available, he will continue to be considered one of the first names on the team-sheet.
Palace are likely to face competition from rival clubs though, as Loftus-Cheek is emerging as a star on the biggest stage of all in Russia; having flourished in his brief cameo against Tunisia. And he’s now considered likely to start against Panama, with Dele Alli nursing a slight injury.
Aston Villa could reportedly owe John Terry £560,000 in wages
The owner may have to sell shares in the club.
Aston Villa’s financial mess looks likely to continue, as the cash-strapped club could now owe captain John Terry a whopping £560,000 in wages, unless he transfers to a different club this summer, according to reports from the Times.
Villa are said to have reached an agreement with HMRC to postpone a payment of £4 million last week, but a further payment is expected this week and the club owner Tony Xia may have to go as far as to sell shares in the club to ensure all debts are paid.
The ex-Chelsea legend announced his impending departure from the midlands club last month, after they failed to secure Premier League promotion in the play-offs and his current contract is due to expire at the end of the month. But he is said to be entitled to a further month’s pay.
His weekly-wage packet was said to be worth £70,000 at Villa Park, meaning the overdue payments from the last two-months add up to over half-a-million for the 37-year-old defender. However, the outstanding July payment will only stand if Terry retires or remains a free-agent, meaning Villa will be keen to land him a new club.
Villa reportedly need £40 million in order to comply with Financial Fair Play regulations (Birmingham Mail), after gambling that they would gain promotion to the Premier League this season.
England must start Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek after Panama reveal tactics
England must opt for creativity after the Panama captain’s comments
Panama have revealed plans stifle England with a physical approach in their upcoming clash on Sunday, in quotes from captain Roman Torres on the Telegraph, and Gareth Southgate should ensure the Three Lions’ approach is suited to the style of opponent.
The Central Americans were beaten 3-0 by a star-studded Belgium outfit on Monday in their World Cup debut, meaning a win against England is pivotal in ensuring they remain in the competition beyond the group stages. And England will have a tough task taking the lion’s share of points on the day.
“England are a bit more direct than Belgium. They try to make use of the pace they have. We’ll need to be compact and limit their space,” revealed Torres told the Telegraph.
And as a result England must employ the right tactics. Creativity and bravery will be key, as they will undoubtedly have the majority of possession, and Southgate will want to make it count. Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek added instant impetus to a languid outfit, after coming on late against Tunisia.
The team’s performance became full of purpose and directness in the last 20 minutes, with both taking the responsibility of carrying the ball forward and creating, and from that arrived the corner and subsequent winner from Harry Kane.
The end product from the likes of Rashford was missing in the opening stages of the game also, as team-mate Jesse Lingard squandered a number of key opportunities to put the game to bed early, and Southgate will not want a repeat this time around.