Since his arrival at Stamford Bridge in the 2016 summer transfer window, N’Golo Kanté has been instrumental in every single winning effort from this Chelsea team. His absence for all of October only served to underline his importance to the team and the unique capabilities he brings to the proceedings every single game. Without him, Chelsea have struggled to contain opposition midfielders and attackers and have slumped to spectacular defeats in Rome as well as Crystal Palace, while managing to keep just one clean sheet in the six October matches played.
Thankfully Kanté’s return edges closer with each passing day. While no one’s willing to definitely call it for Sunday, he should be back as Chelsea take on Mourinho’s Manchester United in an all-important showdown.
“N’Golo is progressing well, we also have tomorrow and then I’ll take the best decision for him and the team. But for sure he’s progressing well and I’m very happy about this. We are talking about an important player.”
“If I wanted to risk him I could have done it against Bournemouth or Roma. Instead I waited, I had a lot of patience to find the best way and it means if I decide to put him in the team and start the game he will be ready.”
Kanté is not the only player Chelsea have lost to a hamstring injury already this season, with Álvaro Morata, who has already made his return but continues to show effects of it, and Victor Moses also affected. For African Player of the Year nominee Moses, who’s expected to not return until mid-November at the earliest, the recovery work is still ongoing.
“No, zero chance [on Moses to return against Manchester United]. It was a bad muscular problem. We must wait and have patience, he needs more time to recover.”
Chelsea’s 3-0 defeat to Roma on Tuesday showed was one of the ugliest performances from a Chelsea team in quite some time. While in the first half, the team was largely let down by bad luck, bad refereeing and bad individual mistakes, the second half was a dispiriting, disappointing, and disquieting affair lacking any of the usual commitment, work, and fight we’ve grown accustomed to from Conte’s charges.
But what’s done is done and we have to move on. Conte has administered the full hairdryer treatment, and hopefully everyone’s learned their lesson.
“Honestly, I think the second half against Roma was bad in many different aspects but sometimes it can happen. The most important thing is that you don’t see this type of situation again.”
“We played a really good first half and we were 2-0 down, but I was more worried in the match against them at Stamford Bridge when we were winning 2-1 because we didn’t have control of the game.”
“I was confident about the second half [on Tuesday] and it was very negative. But that’s the past and now we must prepare for the game against Manchester United and do our best on Sunday.”
Despite having won three of the last four games, Chelsea have been showing worrying signs of (mental and physical) softness, fatigue, and inconsistencies, certainly when compared with last season’s relentless march to the title and the FA Cup final.
We are now facing a test of character as much as a tactical battle against a side and a manager who relish big games likes this.
“I’m happy to work with my players because their commitment is always good, but this season we are struggling because we are facing a lot of important problems, and to solve them is not simple.”
“But in this moment you can see if you are a winner or a loser, that’s very important. When the period is positive it’s very easy to play well and have confidence. When you are struggling it’s important to show character, be strong and face the problem in the right way. But in my life I’m used to doing this. I struggled a lot in my life as a player and then as a coach. My history shows this.”
“We are talking about a really good team, a strong team physically and it will be a very difficult game. They are an important team and we must pay great attention. We are working to prepare for the game in the right way but United are a really good team.”
“When you play against United, Man City, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham it’s always a big game. This type of game must excite the players, to play in a fantastic atmosphere and to know a lot of people will watch the game around the world.”
-Antonio Conte; Source: Chelsea FC
Even if Chelsea were firing on all cylinders, this would be a very, very tough game. Chelsea are far from firing on all cylinders however, and now must again find that spark that will reignite the belief and the confidence in everything Conte’s trying to accomplish here.