N’Golo Kanté was forced off in the 9th minute against Watford with a hamstring injury, bringing all of Chelsea fandom to a standstill. This is not supposed to happen!
It was Kanté’s 51st appearance for the Blues this season — and 176th for club and country since the end of the 2015-16 season — and his all action playing style, up and down the pitch, meant eventually, we would be witness to the day when Kante showed the world that he is human, and he too, is susceptible to injuries.
Sarri admitted afterwards that he might have made a mistake in picking Kanté for a sixth straight start in just 21 days, especially with a crucial second leg of the Europa League semi-final versus Eintracht Frankfurt in sight. In the head coach’s defence, every remaining game in the final stretch of the season has been crucial. Sometimes, these gambles work; unfortunately for us, this time it didn’t.
Kanté, being the nicest man on Earth, of course absolves Sarri of any responsibility. These things happen.
“No. I was just fine and it just happened. I’m ok, I just have pain through my hamstring and I just need a bit of time to check what it is. That is one possibility [that I will be out until the final], but first, we need to check and take the time to check everything to see how long it will take.”
Thankfully, Mateo Kovačić proved an adequate approximation on Sunday for Kanté, and Chelsea collected all three points after a dominant second-half performance. Combined with other results, the win guaranteed Chelsea’s top four finish and place in next year’s Champions League, which means that of the remaining two fixtures this week, only the Europa League semifinal second-leg on Thursday will be important. While Kanté has been ruled out of that game, he could be back for the final on May 29.
Finishing third is also important of course, especially as it would place us ahead of all of our London rivals.
“As we know we have two targets and, after a difficult time in the league, we have the opportunity to finish well and take the third position. It will be an important game against Leicester and we still have the second leg of the Europa League.
“We cannot say that [we have momentum] because at too many times this season, we are winning and losing, winning and losing. [The fans] are behind us, they want the same result as we want and they are just trying to show what they want from us [by booing].
“At the end, we all want a good season and to finish well. So we hope we can get what we want on Thursday and go to the final. We want to qualify for the Champions League and get a trophy. It would be a great finish. Why not? It can make this season be cheerful. But step by step, the first step is to get to the final.”
-N’Golo Kanté; source: Goal
Here’s hoping we get to see Kanté play one more game for Chelsea this season, and even lift a European trophy at the end of it, too!